In advance of World Hepatitis Day this Saturday 28 July, The Hepatitis C Trust warns that high numbers of people remain unaware of the risks associated with the virus, which if left untreated can cause cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death.

Hepatitis C is a preventable and curable disease and most people are unaware of the risk factors which include sharing toothbrushes and razors. Less than half of the 216,000 people in the UK estimated to have the disease have been diagnosed. In England alone, deaths from hepatitis C have risen by 300% in recent years. There is a huge need to increase testing, diagnosis and treatment of the condition to reduce the lives and money wasted by untreated hepatitis C.

Professor Graham Foster commented: “Since many people with hepatitis C don’t have symptoms or have symptoms that they don’t attribute to the virus, far too many infected people don’t know that they have it. Therefore, they are unable to benefit from the curative treatments that we have at our disposal. The virus is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. Anyone who considers themselves to have ever been at risk should get themselves tested.”

To raise awareness of hepatitis C, The Hepatitis C Trust will be supporting a global effort to attempt a Guinness World Record organised by the World Hepatitis Alliance. The aim of this activity is to highlight the huge under diagnosis of the disease by having the most people performing the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” actions in 24 hours at multiple venues around the world on World Hepatitis Day. In the UK, the public are invited to the following Guinness World Record events on Saturday 28 July:

  • London: Guinness World Record event at The Tabernacle, 35 Powis Square, London W11 2AY from 3pm
  • Scotland: The Hepatitis C Trust and C Clear Addaction Fife are organising a Guinness World Record event at Letham Glen, Leven, Fife from 12pm
  • Bradford: Guinness World Record event at the Karmand Community Centre, Barkerend Road, Bradford, BD3 9EP from 11.30am

Charles Gore, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, commented: “Hepatitis is closer than you think. In the UK, a ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ attitude prevails and many people are needlessly dying. We simply must increase testing.

“The record attempt aims to mobilise local communities to use their voice to show governments around the world that they can take positive action to fight hepatitis. World Hepatitis Day presents an important opportunity for us to raise the profile of hepatitis C and save lives.”

Hepatitis C is a curable disease, yet most people in the UK remain undiagnosed. This is putting an unnecessary burden on local health services and the NHS budget as a whole because people don’t arrive in services until they already have advanced liver disease. The latest statistics show that in 2010, 107 liver transplants were undertaken for people with hepatitis C, but the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) estimate that this will rise to 466 per year, which means the number of transplants needed by 2020 could be as many as 4,200.1

Although hepatitis C is a disease often associated with intravenous drug use, there are lesser known risk factors that can affect anybody. A recent survey of the British public found:

  • As many as 48 per cent of people said they had shared a toothbrush and 38 per cent said they had shared a razor, two risk factors associated with contracting the blood borne virus
  • The risk associated with sharing was highest for people in their thirties, with 62 per cent of people saying they had shared a toothbrush and 46 per cent saying they had shared a razor before
  • The research also found that risks associated with body art were significant. Seven per cent of people said they’d had a tattoo outside of the UK and nine per cent of people said they’d had an unlicensed body piercing done. Other risk factors include snorting drugs and blood transfusions or invasive medical/dental procedures in developing countries.

Better2Know can test for Hepatitis C at any of its nationwide STD clinics .  The test is also part of our Platinum and Early Detection Screens.

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