Hepatitis C is a common form of viral hepatitis and a major cause of liver disease. In the UK, around 118,000 people are chronically infected with the virus.
Although cases of liver disease in the UK are increasing, hepatitis C is in decline. There is now an effective cure for the virus, and since 2015 its prevalence has fallen by around one third, and deaths by 25%.
This is great news, and all thanks to the ingenuity of the team of scientists who discovered the virus, and the hard work of health care professionals and health organisations for raising awareness and treating the condition.
Public Health England has recently published a report, reviewing the progress made towards eliminating hepatitis C in the UK today, and the challenges that lie ahead if we are to hit the World Health Organisation’s target of eradicating hepatitis C by 2030.
About hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus. It can affect people very differently – many people with it may have no symptoms at all and may never know they have the virus. About 80% of people who are infected with hepatitis C will develop a chronic infection.
Symptoms can include feeling tired, weight loss, feeling sick and jaundice, but they vary from person to person. If left untreated, hepatitis C can sometimes eventually lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Policy and Communications at the British Liver Trust, says: “The UK must now work hard to reach the World Health Organization target to eliminate hepatitis C – a key challenge is the fact that hepatitis C often has no symptoms in the early stages so it is vital that anyone who is at risk asks to be tested.
“If you have ever taken drugs (even if it was many years ago); had unprotected sex with someone who may have been infected; had a tattoo or received healthcare abroad, please go and get tested to be sure. I would also urge everyone to go to our website and do our online quiz to see if they are at risk – visit www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/screener.”