A campaign for testing for the killer liver disease hepatitis C in UK pharmacies is launched today.
Everyone seems to know that Pamela Anderson has Hep C – they even know that Keith Richards, Anthony Kiedis and Marianne Faithful suffer from the disease and Body Shop founder – Anita Roddick was also diagnosed.
But research suggests that over half a million people in the UK could be living with hepatitis B or C without knowing it. In response, the Hepatitis C Trust is calling on health services to introduce testing in pharmacies to ensure the early diagnosis of the disease which could save thousands of lives each year.
Hear Lesley’s story in our video below:
PILOT SCHEME REVEALS 1 IN 6 PEOPLE TEST POSITIVE FOR HEPATITIS C
• Over 500,000 people are living with undiagnosed helpatitis B or C leading to cirrhosis, liver cancer and death
• People are unaware that taking part in contact sports, sharing toothbrushes and razers can lead to contracting the disease
• After successful pilot pharmacy testing scheme, the Hepatitis C Trust calls for high street testing
Have you ever felt under the weather but the doctor has been unable to diagnose what is wrong with you?
Have you ever shared your partner’s toothbrush or borrowed your friend’s razor?
It is possible that you could be suffering from a disease which is often not tested for… There are estimated to be over half a million people in the UK living with hepatitis B or C without knowing it. The Hepatitis C Trust is calling on health services to introduce testing in pharmacies to ensure the early diagnosis of the disease which could save thousands of lives each year.
WHAT IS HEPATITIS C?
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that predominantly infects the cells of the liver. If left untreated, the virus can cause cirrhosis, liver cancer and death. There is no vaccine but early treatment can successfully clear the virus in around half of patients and ongoing infection can be managed. The Health Protection Agency estimate that there are around 250,000 hepatitis C positive people in the UK although some estimates put this number as high as 466,000. Only around 70,000 people in England and Wales have been diagnosed.
WHAT IS HEPATITIS B?
Hepatitis B can be transmitted through blood and some body fluid contact and is sexually transmitted. A vaccine for hepatitis B is available and treatment is available which can manage but not clear the virus. The Health Protection Agency estimate that there are 180,000 people living with hepatitis B in the UK but The Hepatitis B Foundation estimates this figure is actually 320,000 due to recent immigration trends.
HOW DO YOU GET HEPATITIS B or C?
• Regularly shared razors or toothbrushes (with a person who is known to have hepatitis B or C or may have been at risk)
• Contact sports, fights and a human bite (where they may have come in contact with another person’s blood)
• Tattoos / piercings/ Acupuncture (in unregistered premises or with possibly unsterile equipment or with needles that were not new)
• Unprotected sex – hepatitis B (not C) • Current sniffing cocaine / past sniffing cocaine (sharing pipes, notes or straws with a person who is known to have hepatitis B or C or may have been at risk)
• Receiving a blood transfusion / blood products / organ transplantation prior to 1991
• Current IV drug use / past IV drug use (including steroids, even once and sharing any injecting equipment)
PILOT HEPATITIS TESTING PROJECT
Last year a viral hepatitis testing pilot project in 19 pharmacies across the country found a hepatitis B or C positive patient in every 6 tests conducted. 19 pharmacies in 5 Primary Care Trust (PCT) areas offered free, on-demand hepatitis B and C dried blood spot tests to clients who had been at risk of contracting viral hepatitis as part of a 3-month pilot project organised by The Hepatitis C Trust. Pharmacists displayed posters and gave clients a leaflet about risk factors to read to filter out the ‘worried well’.
If a client had been at risk they were offered a test which involved pre-test counselling in a private room or area followed by a dried blood spot test. About The Hepatitis C Trust: The Hepatitis C Trust is the national UK charity for hepatitis C. It provides information, support and representation for all those affected by this disease. Started by patients, the majority of its governing Board of Trustees are patients and all of its staff, paid and voluntary, are patients.
The PCTs involved in the study were: City & Hackney PCT, the Isle of Wight PCT, Nottinghamshire Country PCT, Sandwell PCT and Tameside & Glossop PCT. Across the pharmacies a total of 234 tests were conducted, diagnosing 35 people with hepatitis C and 4 people with hepatitis B. This is a significantly higher rate than tests conducted in GPs surgeries, where on average one in 25, as opposed to 1 in 7, identify a person with hepatitis C. Celebrities who have been diagnosed with hepatitis C: Dame Anita Roddick, Pamela Anderson, Keith Richards, Anthony Kiedis, Marianne Faithfull, Natalie Cole.
How Leslie Jenkins, 51, from Bradford caught hepatitis C
Lesley contracted hepatitis C though a blood transfusion when her son was born, 23 years ago. She was given several pints of blood during a difficult labour. About five years ago she started to feel generally unwell and was very tired all the time. For years she would regularly see her GP but all routine tests came back negative. At one visit she saw a locum GP who diagnosed depression without even looking at her file or asking questions. In 2007, Lesley heard about Anita Roddick’s case and started to research hepatitis C herself. She found that she had many of the symptoms and so went back to her GP and specifically requested a hepatitis C test. She was positive. She says she was ‘staggered’ by the lack of knowledge her GP had about the virus. Lesley completed treatment for the virus last year and initially cleared it but it then returned. She recently completed a new course of treatment through a new trial in London. Lesley is campaigning to improve desperately-needed awareness amongst health professionals and for the virus to be taken more seriously by the Department of Health. She recently started working for The Hepatitis C Trust to coordinate volunteers around the country raise awareness amongst GPs about the virus.