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A Resized Hep C Image cbAugust 1 2017

A campaign to encourage more hepatitis C testing has been launched to help eliminate the virus as a hidden public health threat.

Public Health England wants more people to take up the offer of free hepatitis C testing, whether or not they have symptoms. A poster campaign is inviting people to take a quick 6-item quiz to find out whether they might have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus; if so they advised to seek testing.

“Around 200,000 people in the UK are thought to be living with chronic hepatitis C (hep C) infection, with a substantial proportion unaware they have it. Many will be over the age of 50 and may have no or few specific symptoms,” said PHE. Being aware of hep C status means treatment can be started sooner, and the greater the chance of avoiding long term complications.

People should have a hep C test if they:

  • received a blood transfusion before September 1991, or a blood product before 1986 in the UK;
  • shared needles or other equipment to inject drugs, even if it was just once or many years ago;
  • had medical or dental treatment abroad in unsterile conditions;
  • had a tattoo, piercing, acupuncture, electrolysis, or semi-permanent make up using equipment that may have been unsterilized;
  • had unprotected sex with someone who has, or might have, hep C;
  • shared a razor or toothbrush with someone who has, or might have, hep C.

Dr Helen Harris, Clinical Scientist in PHE’s Immunisation, Hepatitis and Blood Safety Department, said: “We are hopeful that the increased access to improved treatments over recent years has contributed to the latest fall in deaths from severe hep C related liver disease. This, combined with interventions to prevent infection in the first place, can help us to achieve our vision of eliminating hep C as a major public health threat in the UK.”

PHE made the announcement alongside publishing its annual report ‘Hepatitis C in the UK 2017’ on July 28, World Hepatitis Day.

Links:
PHE announcement  
Hepatitis C – Quiz: ‘Could you have hepatitis C?’ 
PHE: Hepatitis C in England 2017                
PHE Vaccine Update July 2017   

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