Get a test – it could just save your life
Estimated 1,600 people likely to have hepatitis C in the Hillingdon area
STATISTICS estimate more than 1,600 people in Hillingdon are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
The figures, from March 2014, suggest that around 60,000 are chronically infected with the virus in London, while only 2,688 courses of treatment have been allocated.
Public Health England has created a spreadsheet estimating the number of people infected with the virus, and which reveal people who currently or have previously injected drugs are more likely to be infected.
Hepatitis C is a virus that can infect the liver and if left untreated can cause potentially lifethreatening damage to the liver over many years.
Around a third infected people live London
Consu ltant hepatologist at St Mary’s Hospital and professor of of in hepatology Imperial College London, Professor Mark Thursz, said: “As it is estimated that around a third of hepatitis C patients live in London, we are delighted to have access to new innovative tools to help eliminate this health threat from the capital.
“We now need to work closely with NHS England, Public Health England and local authorities to ensure that those who need therapy have a diagnosis and access to treatment.”
An estimated 215,000 people in the UK have hepatitis C, and the virus does not have any noticeable symptoms until the liver is seriously damaged.
It is often possible to cure the infection with and most people with it have a normal life expectancy.
Hepatitis C can be caught by coming into contact with the blood of an infected person at including either sharing unsterilised needles, razors or toothbrushes.
It can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby, and on very rare occasions through unprotected sex.
The UK has signed up to the World Health Organization pledge to eradicate the virus by 2030, but currently there are only 10,011 treatments available across the country in 2016/17.
Dr Mark Toms, medical director at healthcare company MSD UK, said: “Hepatitis C is a major public health burden in the UK and a growing cause of death worldwide.
“Thanks to a new generation of medicines, we finally have the potential through a dedicated programme of prevention and treatment to eliminate this disease once and for all.
“Elimination would not just save lives, it would remove a major burden on NHS resources.
“What has been estimated in 2012 to be over £80million a year spent on hepatitis C care could be spent elsewhere.”
In Hillingdon, an estimated 833 people currently inject drugs, with 397 of those thought to be infected with the virus, the reports says.
Amongst the population that have previously injected drugs, estimated at 1,950, around 760 of those are infected with HCV.
While in the population who have never injected drugs, around 365 people aged 15 to 59 years old are thought to be infected, with just 76 of them in the over 60 population.
The figures also show that out of the 6,328 British Pakistani people aged between 15 and 59 living in the borough, 127 are believed to be infected with HCV.
Deputy director for The Hepatitis C Trust, Rachel Halford, said: “These figures show that there are over a hundred South Asian people in the borough yet to be diagnosed with this life threatening condition.
“People of Pakistani heritage have a much higher chance of hepatitis C, often due to medical treatment in Pakistan.
“If you are from a South Asian background, visit your GP for a test, it could save your life.”
RISK: Drug users, past and present, are more likely to be infected with hepatitis C – research suggests hundreds in Hillingdon are likely to be infected with the virus