Get a test – it could just save your life

Es­ti­mated 1,600 peo­ple likely to have hep­ati­tis C in the Hilling­don area

Uxbridge Gazette - - NEWS - By Alexan­der Ballinger alexan­der.ballinger@trin­i­tymir­

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

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