Mum's battle against virus for 33 years

AN IPSWICH woman living with hepatitis C today appealed for greater awareness of the virus after discovering she had been infected with it for more than 30 years.

AN IPSWICH woman living with hepatitis C today appealed for greater awareness of the virus after discovering she had been infected with it for more than 30 years.

Erica Wildwood, 50, is determined to fight the virus which nearly shut-down her liver and has led her to battle the stigma attached to the condition.

The call centre worker from Rushbury Close has applauded today's launch of a new awareness campaign in East Anglia and encouraged anyone who thinks they may have contracted the virus to get tested.

Ms Wildwood said: “Anyone who has ever injected drugs, had a blood transfusion before 1991 or had a dodgy tattoo should get a test.

“I injected drugs for only a week and never injected again but I contracted it.

“That was when I was 17. Hepatitis C was not actually identified at that point.”

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For 30 years Ms Wildwood had no idea her body was being attacked by the virus.

She moved to Ipswich from her native Holland after falling into what she described as “a bad crowd” there.

It was only when she began to feel unwell in 2002 that she visited her doctor and tests showed her liver was only 20per cent functional.

Both her ex-husband and her 20-year-old son are clear of the blood-borne virus and Ms Wildwood has since undergone treatment but it has failed to clear her body of the virus. She remains hopeful that future treatments will finally beat it.

The government today launched a campaign called Face It which aims to raise awareness of hepatitis C.

An outdoor exhibition of giant photographic portraits of people with hepatitis C was unveiled in Norwich and an East Anglia-wide appeal was made for people who think they may have contracted it to get tested.

Ms Wildwood backed the appeal and said: “I think it's an excellent idea. There is a lot of ignorance and a lot of unfounded fear.

“If the test comes back positive it's still not a death sentence.”

For further information visit www.hepc.nhs.uk or call the hepatitis C information line on 0800 451451 (textphone 0800 0850859). Lines are open 10am to 10pm, 7 days a week.

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

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

Hepatitis C 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

It can also be passed through unprotected sex or by sharing a razor or toothbrush with someone who has the virus

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

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