Hepatitis Awareness Day 2017

Hepatitis Awareness Day 2017

What is Hepatitis C?

Hep C is a virus that travels in and can be contracted through contaminated blood. It causes disease and inflammation in the liver. This can have very serious long-term effects. Up to 200,000 people are thought to have Hepatitis C in England and Wales.

Treatment for Hepatitis C has dramatically improved over the past 3 years. The anti-viral medications used today attack the virus directly, have relatively few side effects and a full course of treatment may only require the person to take 3 months of medication. For people completing medical treatment the chances of successful clearance of the virus are at 90% and above.

Why screen for Hepatitis C?

Many people do not know that they have Hepatitis C. When people contract the virus there are often no obvious symptoms. If you think you could be at higher risk of catching Hepatitis C it is important to get tested. A screening test is easy and involves either a pin-prick test to the finger or a blood test.

People that should consider testing: anyone who had blood transfusion before 1992; injects drugs; uses and shares crack pipes; snorts drugs and has shared a tube or note; has unprotected sex or who has shared razors or toothbrushes with someone at high risk of blood-borne viruses; has had tattoos in prison.

Within the B&NES area over 900 people who have had contact with drug and alcohol services have been screened for Hepatitis C. Rates of the virus among people who inject is still relatively low (20% to 25% compared with other parts of the country. But this is still way too much for preventable and treatable disease.

If you’re concerned about Hepatitis C or other blood-borne viruses, including Hepatitis B or HIV, speak to staff at DHI or to your GP.

What is Hepatitis B

Like Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B is a virus that can seriously damage the liver. It can be contracted through contaminated blood and other bodily fluids. Around 180,000 people are thought to be living with Hepatitis B in the UK.

Rates of active Hepatitis B in B&NES are low which is at least partly a result of high Hepatitis B vaccination uptake; this is a very effective way to protect the whole population - as well as the individual – against infection with Hepatitis B.

If you’re engaged with drug services and you think you are at risk of exposure to Hepatitis B then talk to staff and you can probably get a course of vaccinations for free.

What do we do at DHI?

We offer advice and guidance around getting vaccinations or treatments for Hepatitis. We also run Needle Exchanges where people who inject drugs can get sterile syringes to use, to help prevent infection.

Our peers also help with screenings in Bristol and used their lived experience to help others who have been diagnosed with Hepatitis.

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