New strategy to combat disease

IT IS a disease many sufferers do not even know they have but now a new strategy could see Suffolk pioneering work to raise awareness of Hepatitis C.Up to 2,000 people in Suffolk could unknowingly have the disease but until now there has been nothing to treat it.

IT IS a disease many sufferers do not even know they have but now a new strategy could see Suffolk pioneering work to raise awareness of Hepatitis C.

Up to 2,000 people in Suffolk could unknowingly have the disease but until now there has been nothing to treat it.

Now the emergence of a new drug to combat the virus has meant that a consultation is underway for a new Government strategy to raise awareness of the condition nationally.

Director of Public Health in Suffolk, Brian Keeble stressed that it was still very early days but he wanted to flag up the fact that something was being done about it.

It is unlikely to come into force until the middle of next year if it gets the go-ahead.

He said that there would be three elements to the awareness campaign which would involve hospitals and hopefully GP's as well.

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Dr Keeble said: "We need to make sure that hospitals are properly tooled up for treating people with Hepatitis C as some drugs are quite expensive.

"There will also be an element of prevention so people who inject drugs are aware of the problem.

"Thirdly we need to find out about cases – the problem has been around a long time but was not detected until around 1989/90."

For some the disease may never manifest itself with any symptoms but can eventually cause liver damage.

Dr Keeble said that some people who injected drugs during the 1960's and 70's when the use of heroin became fashionable could be at risk of having the disease.

As part of the campaign Dr Keeble is hoping that Suffolk GP's will also be involved.

He said: "If there are patients with them that they know used to inject drugs in the past they might suggest that they go for tests.

"Also patients who have signs of abnormalities in their liver could be tested."

Although the new drug is expensive Dr Keeble said the county's Primary Care Trusts would have to find the money to pay for it if the scheme was to work.

In Suffolk the scheme will be led by the Infectious Disease Control department of the Public Health Network.

FACTFILE:

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and is caused by viruses that attack the liver.

There are several different types, A,B,C,D and E and there are vaccines for use with Hep A and B.

Hepatitis C is spread from person to person and is caused by blood contact for example injecting drugs and sexual contact.

Unsterilised needles used for acupuncture, tattooing or body piercing have also been linked as possible causes for concern.

SYMPTOMS: Although 80 per cent of infected people do not show any symptoms, signs of the virus are: jaundice, fatigue, dark urine, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and nausea.

EFFECTS: Long term it can lead to chronic infection which in turn can lead to chronic liver disease.

Source of information: National Centre for Infectious Diseases and Youth Information.com

WEBLINK: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hepatitis/c/fact.htm

www.youthinformation.com

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