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article imageHepatitis C Trust warns half of Scottish sufferers undiagnosed

By Gemma Fox     Feb 4, 2010 in Health
The chief executive of the Hepatitis C Trust has voiced his concerns that many people in Scotland are living with undiagnosed hepatitis C. The warning comes as the trust opens its first office in Scotland.
Hepatitis C affects about 1,700 people in Scotland the chief executive of the Hepatitis C Trust, Charles Gore, is concerned that people who are suffering from it are not being diagnosed and therefore missing out on treatments which could be life-saving. He said, "With diagnostic rates now sitting at more than 1,700 new patients a year, hepatitis C figures in Scotland are giving cause for concern. However what is more alarming is that there are another 1,700 people each year unaware that they too are living with the condition. We need to encourage anyone who thinks they might have been in contact with contaminated blood in any form to ask their GP for a free test.”
The disease, which can lead to liver failure and ultimately death, can be treated successfully. Therapies used currently mean that treatment was successful in more than half of those diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C.
Next month The Scottish Government will launch an official campaign aimed at encouraging more people to get tested for the disease. Health professionals have been offered extra training and support as the campaign is expected to see an upsurge in those coming for testing and therefore requiring treatment.
Shona Robison, the public health minister, spoke of how there is a lot of myth surrounding hepatitis C and how the campaign aims to dispel that. She said, “Both the public and professional elements of the campaign will also dispel myths and inaccuracies which surround Hep C. For instance, it’s not transmitted through saliva or other body fluids – you can only catch it through blood to blood contact. Although most people catch hepatitis C through injecting drug use, eight in 10 people currently infected are not currently injecting drugs. That’s why the campaign will focus on groups such as former injecting drug users, people who had NHS blood transfusions before 1991 and anyone who may have shared items, such as razors, with someone who has the virus."
Hepatitis, which means inflammation of the liver, currently has no vaccine so it's important that people are aware of the symptoms and act accordingly.
Fatigue is the most common symptom of hepatitis C and some patients who are initially diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are then later diagnosed with hepatitis C.
Aside from fatigue, BBC Health lists the following possible symptoms:
* Weight loss
* Loss of appetite
* Joint pains
* nausea
* Flu-like symptoms (fever, headaches, sweats)
* Anxiety
* Difficulty concentrating
* Alcohol intolerance and pain in the liver area
Hepatitis C is generally passed on through blood-to-blood contact. Regular drug users contract it through sharing needles. Body piercings and tattoos can also be a source if the equipment used is not sterilised correctly.
In the early 90's it was often contracted through blood transfusions but blood used now is screened and not used if the disease is found to be present.
More about Scotland, Liver, Disease, Blood, Drug use
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