On Saturday 28th July, World Hepatitis Day, the British Liver Trust unites with organisations, health professionals and supporters across the world to push for urgent action to find the millions of people globally who are unaware that they have the life-threatening Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Worldwide, 71 million people are affected by the virus and approximately 160,000 are infected with it across the UK, with 40-50% remaining undiagnosed.
World Hepatitis Day calls for countries across the world to eliminate the virus, which is a liver infection that spreads through blood-to-blood contact.
Judi Rhys, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, said: “A key challenge in eliminating the virus is the fact that HCV often has no symptoms in the early stages. It is therefore vital that anyone who is at risk asks to be tested.
“Many people who are undiagnosed are not aware that they may be at risk. We would urge anyone who has ever dabbled in drugs (even if it was many years ago); had unprotected sex with someone who may have been infected; had a tattoo or received healthcare in a country with a high prevalence of the virus or who may be have been put at risk in their workplace, for example from a needlestick injury, to get tested to be sure. Further information is available on our website here.”
Alongside 193 other countries, the UK government has pledged to help eliminate the HCV virus by 2030. In January, NHS England announced it was going further and would aim to eliminate the virus by 2025. A report released this week by the Hepatitis C coalition, which includes British Liver Trust, revealed the steps that will be taken to do this.
Hepatitis C affects people very differently – many people with it may have no symptoms at all and may never know they have the virus. About one in five people infected with hepatitis C will clear the virus, in its acute form, within two to six months. About 80% of people who are infected with hepatitis C will develop a chronic infection.
Hepatitis refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver. It's commonly caused by a viral infection, but there are other possible causes of hepatitis. These include autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis that occurs as a secondary result of medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol.
British Liver Trust raises awareness of viral hepatitis year round via their Love Your Liver campaign. Liver disease is largely preventable. More than 90% is due to three main risk factors: viral hepatitis, obesity and alcohol. The British Liver Trust’s Love Your Liver campaign focuses on three simple steps to Love Your Liver back to health:
- Drink within recommended limits and have three consecutive days off alcohol every week
- Cut down on sugar, carbohydrates and fat and take more exercise
- Know the risk factors for viral hepatitis and get tested or vaccinated if at risk
British Liver Trust’s at-risk screener is available to assess your risk of liver disease: www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/screener