Tens of thousands unaware they have deadly hepatitis C infection

Published 13 September 2019

From: Public Health England

Public Health England (PHE) has estimated that up to 95,600 people in the UK could be unaware that they are infected with hepatitis C (HCV), which can kill if left untreated.

HCV is a bloodborne virus that can cause life-threatening liver disease, including cancer. However, those infected often have no symptoms until decades later when their liver has been badly damaged. When symptoms do occur, they can often be mistaken for other conditions.

The virus is spread through blood-to-blood contact, most commonly in the UK by sharing needles contaminated with the virus - but even sharing razors or toothbrushes with an infected person could pass on the virus.

PHE is urging anyone who believes they may have been at risk of contracting hepatitis C, especially if they have ever injected drugs, to get tested. If people aren’t sure about whether they are at risk, they can take a short quiz on the Hepatitis C Trust website to find out if they should take a test.

Full article can be read here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tens-of-thousands-unaware-they-have-deadly-hepatitis-c-infection

Hepatitis C testing campaign in Southampton

As a result of funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) - the research arm of the NHS - the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Solent NHS Trust and the University of Southampton have worked with Southampton City Council to set up testing points at pharmacies throughout the city to help identify and treat people with hepatitis C. Pharmacies in Southampton taking part in this campaign are Bassil Chemist at 55A Bedford Place, Sanga Pharmacy at 48 Thornhill Park Rd and Regent's Park Pharmacy at 61 Regents Park Rd.

People at highest risk of hepatitis C include those who

  • Have injected drugs, including steroids, even once.
  • Have had a tattoo, piercing or acupuncture in unregistered premises or with possibly unsterile equipment.
  • Have received a blood transfusion or blood products prior to 1991.
  • Were born or received medical procedures in a high risk area (Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa).Have pricked themself on a needle or sharp object that has been used on someone else.
  • Have had unprotected sex with anyone who is known to have HIV, hepatitis B or C or might have been at risk for any of the reasons listed above.
  • Have regularly shared razors or toothbrushes with anyone who is known to have hepatitis B or C or might have been at risk for any of the reasons listed above.

Dr Charlotte Cook, Hepatology Research Fellow and Gastroenterology Registrar, says: “One of the big challenges of this work has been to find people who carry the virus. Having the test in a pharmacy is more accessible than booking an appointment with a GP or going to a hospital. The treatment of hepatitis C is now much easier to take as it can be given as just one pill a day for a few months. It is now within our reach to eliminate the virus from the City of Southampton.”

Where to find support if you are affected by Hepatitis C

Information about support can be found by clicking the links here:

The Hepatitis C Trust

Details of local support for anyone affected by Hep C in Southampton and Hampshire