Some of the region’s most recognisable buildings are being lit up purple from 24 to 30 July to commemorate World Hepatitis Day.
Did you know that approximately 70,000 people living in England have Hepatitis C without knowing?
I want to talk to you about hepatitis and ask you to help us become one of the first countries in the world to eliminate Hepatitis C.
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Causes of liver inflammation include viral infections (Hepatitis A, B, C), fatty liver, autoimmune, some medication and liver damage from alcohol.
Hepatitis C is a virus, and often does not have any noticeable symptoms until the liver has been significantly damaged. Many patients only get to know they have Hepatitis C after developing liver related complications which can be life threatening or be liver cancer.
If you are pregnant and have Hepatitis C, there is a small chance of it being passed on to the baby.
Thankfully, although there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, treatment is highly effective and is simple to take and usually has very few side effects.
Am I at risk?
You may have inadvertently put yourself at risk if you:
- Ever experimented with injectable drugs when you were younger, even if just once.
- Had acupuncture, a tattoo or body piercing abroad or in an unlicensed parlour.
- Have shared personal hygiene tools with someone with the disease, including toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers or diabetes supplies.
- Used injectable drugs with unsterile equipment or that has been shared with someone else.
- Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992.
Additionally, if you were born outside of the UK in a country with high prevalence of Hepatitis C you should consider getting tested.
What are the symptoms?
Hepatitis C is usually asymptomatic but if you are symptomatic, indicators may include a fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, joint pain, pale faeces, and yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).
What can I do?
It has never been easier to find out if you have Hepatitis C. You can now do a free, confidential Hepatitis C test in the comfort and privacy of your own home. To order a test, you can visit Hepctest.nhs.uk.
Each test has instructions so you can complete the test at home and can return to find out the result.
If you wanted to talk to someone in confidence, you could also contact the Bristol and Severn Operational Delivery Network, based at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. One of our hepatitis nurse specialists will be happy to talk through your concerns and arrange a test for you. To reach the team, you could either call them on 0117 342 1104 or visit their website The Bristol and Severn Hepatitis C Network (uhbristol.nhs.uk).
Since NHS England started their Hepatitis C elimination programme in 2015, deaths from Hepatitis C have fallen by 35%, and liver transplants linked to the disease have also fallen by 53%.
We have made some excellent strides in eliminating Hepatitis C. We all have our part to play, and if you think you may have been at risk, however small – I would encourage you to order a free test today.
Beginning treatment as soon as possible will help stop Hepatitis C damaging your liver.