More than 70,000 Brits ‘could be living with hepatitis C’ – are you at risk?
MORE than 70,000 Brits could be living with killer hepatitis C unawares, experts warn.
The virus is curable but can lead to cancer, severe liver damage and death if left untreated, they say.
But two thirds of Brits do not know how the killer virus is spread, how it is treated and the symptoms to be aware of, according to a survey by Preventx.
Experts at the healthcare company and charity the Hepatitis C Trust are calling on more Brits to get screened for the disease via NHS England’s at-home testing service.
Dr John White, of Preventx, said: “The limited awareness around the risk factors and symptoms of hepatitis C, shown by our survey, makes getting tested even more important.
“With many ways to acquire hepatitis C — from tattoos to toothbrushes — testing is the only way to be sure you don’t have it.
“It is estimated that 70,000 people in England have the virus and don’t know about it. We must get more people to test to find these missing cases of hepatitis C.”
Some 70,649 Brits were living with diagnosed hepatitis C in 2022, according to the UK Health Security Agency.
It is a virus that can infect the liver and cause life-threatening damage over many years.
The illness does not cause any noticeable symptoms until the organ has been significantly damaged, meaning many people may be infected without realising it.
Signs can include flu-like symptoms, feeling tired all the time, loss of appetite, stomach ache and feeling sick, according to the NHS.
The virus is spread from blood-to-blood contact, which can occur with tattoo needles, sharing razors or toothbrushes, sharing needles for drugs and — rarely — unprotected sex.
Keith Haway, 48, from Bristol, finished treatment in 2019 and joined the Hepatitis C Trust in 2022 to raise awareness for the virus and get more people tested.
He said: “When I was diagnosed with hepatitis C it was a shock.
“My friends and I didn’t know anything about it. I’m lucky that it was picked up when it was.
“It is so important people get a test if they are at risk.
“I think people sometimes assume that hepatitis C only affects drug users or homeless people.
I’m living proof that hepatitis C can be cured and treated
Keith Haway, 48, from Bristol
“That’s not the case and I’ve worked with everyone from people in gyms, to people who’ve caught it from a tattoo.
“I’m living proof that hepatitis C can be cured and treated. We just need to get more people to test.”
Rachel Halford, of The Hepatitis C Trust, said: “With public awareness of hepatitis C so low, there is a lack of testing within the general public – there may be thousands of people who do not know they are at risk of the virus.
“You can go many years before you experience any symptoms of hepatitis C but the damage the virus can do to your liver as it goes undetected can be life-threatening.
“Thankfully, hepatitis C can be cured via a short course of tablets.
“If you are concerned about hepatitis C, it’s never been easier to get tested.
“The at-home testing kit from the NHS will help you to quickly and confidentially find out if you have the virus so that you can start your treatment straight away.”
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis C?
Symptoms can include:
- flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches and a high temperature (fever)
- feeling tired all the time
- loss of appetite
- stomach ache
- feeling and being sick
The only way to know for certain if these symptoms are caused by hepatitis C is to get tested.
Source: The NHS
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