Shropshire shows its support for World Hepatitis Day
Shrewsbury railway station will be lit up in purple on Wednesday to show Shropshire’s support for World Hepatitis Day.
In 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) put out a call for action for all countries to eliminate viral Hepatitis by 2030. The UK government pledged its support and two years later, NHS England announced an even more ambitious goal of eliminating Hepatitis C by 2025.
Closer to home, Shropshire Recovery Partnership is part of the NHS Addictions Provider Alliance, Hepatitis C U Later project, to eliminate Hepatitis C by 2023.
Locally this has led to Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust providing weekly Hepatitis C treatment clinics within the local community drug and alcohol services in Shrewsbury and Oswestry.
Working with the Hep C Trust, The Shrewsbury Ark also holds a weekly testing and treatment clinic aimed at the county’s homeless population.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus which most commonly affects the liver. If left untreated, the virus can cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage to the liver such as liver disease or hepatocellular cancer, it may also have adverse effects on the digestive system, lymphatic system, immune system and brain. Hepatitis C is highly curable with modern day treatment and most people who contract the virus will have a normal life expectancy.
Contracting Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus most commonly spread through blood-to-blood contact. As a result, the most common ways to contract the virus include:
- sharing unsterilised needles
- sharing razors or toothbrushes
- from a pregnant woman to her unborn child
- through unprotected sex (though this is rare)
Injecting drug use is the most common way to contract the virus. It is estimated that around half of people who inject drugs in England have, at some point, been infected.
Hepatitis C has two stages: acute infection and chronic infection. Acute infection refers to the first six months on infection and may not result in any noticeable symptoms. It is estimated that around 20% of those infected with hepatitis C will naturally clear the virus from their body during this stage. Long-term chronic infection can result in fibrosis and cirrhosis scarring of the liver, liver cancer or end-stage liver disease.
Hepatitis C doesn’t have any noticeable symptoms until the liver has been significantly damaged. As a result, a person may have the virus without realising it.
When they do occur, symptoms of the Hepatitis C infection may include:
- flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches and a high fever
- feeling tired all the time
- a loss of appetite
- abdominal pain
- feeling and being sick
As these symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions, getting tested is the only way to know if you have Hepatitis C. In the event of extreme liver damage, a liver transplant may be required.
A blood test is carried out to see if someone is infected. Tests can be administered by your local GP, sexual health clinic, genitourinary medicine clinic or drug treatment centre. If you suspect you may be at risk, it is essential to get tested to prevent the onset of liver damage.
Modern day treatment is usually in the form of tablets or injections taken over a period of several weeks. It is important to complete the course of treatment.
Shropshire Recovery Partnership: 01743 294700
Hep C Trust: http://www.hepctrust.org.uk/ or confidential helpline 020 7089 6221