Group helps hepatitis C sufferers

AN IPSWICH woman with hepatitis C is today reaching out to others with the disease on the eve of a support evening in the town.Erica Wildwood discovered in 2002 that she had unknowingly been infected with the virus for 33 years.

AN IPSWICH woman with hepatitis C is today reaching out to others with the disease on the eve of a support evening in the town.

Erica Wildwood discovered in 2002 that she had unknowingly been infected with the virus for 33 years.

Now Ms Wildwood runs the Hepatitis C Support Group for Ipswich, and is encouraging other patients and their loved ones to join.

Today is World Hepatitis Awareness Day and the Department of Health is running an awareness campaign called FaCe It.


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Ms Wildwood's group, which supports people from Ipswich and the surrounding areas, is meeting tomorrow.

She said: “The meetings provide a safe space for people to come and share experiences.

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“There's still a stigma attached to the virus and the treatment is gruelling, so to have people who have gone through the same thing is very helpful.

“People won't be judged, it's about supporting each other. It can be hard for people to talk about it but I'm very upfront. If I lie about it, or how I got it, it perpetuates the stigma.

“Every year 20 people get treatment at Ipswich Hospital for the virus. The youngest person at the moment is a four-year-old.”

Ms Wildwood, of Rushbury Close, injected drugs with an ex-boyfriend's used needle for a week when she was 17.

She moved from her native Holland to Ipswich but only when she started feeling ill in 2002 was she diagnosed. She has tried treatment but it failed to clear her.

She said: “Treatment hasn't worked for me so far and in a way, me supporting others gives it some meaning.”

The Ipswich support group meets every other month. The meeting tomorrow is at Allington Clinic, 427 Woodbridge Road, from 6.45pm to 8.50pm.

For more information call Ms Wildwood during the day on 07837 667072.

FastFacts: Hepatitis C

A total of 200,000 people in England are estimated to have hepatitis C but eight out of ten people are unaware they have it.

It can take years or even decades for symptoms of hepatitis C to appear.

It is a virus that can cause serious liver damage.

Unlike hepatitis A and B, there is no vaccine to protect against it.

The virus is spread through contact with the blood of a person who has hepatitis C.

Ways you could have contracted it include if you have ever injected drugs and shared equipment, if you received a blood transfusion before 1991 or blood products like clotting factors before 1986.

Anyone who has had a tattoo or piercing with equipment that is not sterile, or anyone who has received medical or dental treatment in countries where hepatitis C is common and where equipment may not be sterilised, could also have contracted the virus.

more information is available at www.hepc.nhs.uk or via the Hepatitis C Trust helpline on 0870 200 1200.

BODY Shop founder Dame Anita Roddick told the world she had hepatitis C before dying this year.

Dame Anita, 64, said in February that she contracted the disease through a blood transfusion while giving birth to her youngest daughter in 1971.

She was diagnosed with Hepatitis C two years ago and cirrhosis, a long-term effect of the disease, more recently.

Last month she suffered a major brain haemorrhage at St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex.

Dame Anita became a patron of the Hepatitis C Trust, the only UK charity devoted to the virus.

She turned to the charity for information and help when she was diagnosed with the disease.

Dame Anita called for greater public awareness and better funding for the disease.

She said: “I want to blow the whistle on the fact that Hep C must be taken seriously as a public health challenge and must get the attention and resources that it needs.”

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