Not detecting Hepatitis C can lead to severe complications:

A hepatitis C infection can be categorised into two stages. The first stage is acute infection (following initial infection). The second stage is chronic infection. The acute stage refers to the first 6 months of infection and does not necessarily result in any noticeable symptoms. Approximately 20% of those infected with hepatitis C will naturally clear the virus from their body within the first six months . For the remaining 80% a chronic (long-term) infection will develop.

The course of a chronic hepatitis C infection is extremely varied and unpredictable. Some people experience very few symptoms for as long as a decade. Others can suffer symptoms almost from the start. Some will progress to develop fibrosis and cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer or end stage liver disease, while others experience very little liver damage, even after many years. In cases where there is an absence of symptoms many people do not discover that they have HCV until sometime after they have been infected.

Another reason that hepatitis C goes undiagnosed for many years is that its symptoms can often be put down to other illnesses. For example, depression, fatigue, skin problems, insomnia, pain and digestive disorders could all have other causes. For these reasons hepatitis C is often referred to as the ‘Silent Epidemic’. It is clear from this that for those 80 percent who do not naturally clear the Hepatitis C virus from their bodies, the failure to detect and then adequately treat Hep C can have devastating consequences including the need for liver transplant or death.

It is not unreasonable, and in particular considering the fact there is now increased publicity around the risks of Hepatitis C and indeed a national campaign underway to test for and diagnose Hepatitis C, that increased numbers of people will be aware of this infection and will be seeking ways to be tested for it.

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