The annual Hepatitis C report published by Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed that England has seen a rise by more than a third of new diagnoses of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection, to 10,873 cases in 2012. This is compared to the figures in 2010 when it was introduced that diagnostic laboratories would give statutory notification.

The figures also show that London has seen Hepatitis C diagnoses treble to 2,844 in 2012, accounting for 26% of all Hepatitis C cases in England.

An estimated 160,000 people have chronic Hepatitis C in England, 215,000 in the whole of the UK, and many remain unaware of their condition. 1,692 more people were admitted to hospital for HCV-related cirrhosis and liver cancer in 2012 from 1998, and there were 326 HCV-related deaths in 2012.

Dr Helen Harris, Hepatitis expert at PHE, said, “sadly, many people chronically infected with Hepatitis C remain unaware of their infection. For many, it can be several years or even decades before they develop symptoms… Antiviral therapies exist that will clear the virus in most cases, yet only around three per cent of the chronically infected population in England access them each year.”

The message is clear. Hepatitis C can be managed and treated, but it should be diagnosed and treatment started before any damage is done, which can mean getting tested even if you have no symptoms. PHE statistical models suggest that if the number of those receiving treatment for HCV doubles in the next decade, then about 6,000 new diagnoses of HCV-related end-stage live disease could be prevented in the next 30 years.

In the UK, the predominant risk of the virus comes from sharing drug injecting equipment. There is also increased risk for anyone who received blood transfusions prior to September 1991, those who have participated in unprotected sexual contact or intercourse, and from unsterile equipment used for tattoos or body piercing.

If you think you may have been exposed to Hepatitis C at some point in your life then Better2Know can help you to get tested. With clinics across the UK, you can be tested at a time and place to suit you and be confident you will get your results back in the fastest time possible.

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