Nurses are encouraging people to be aware of the risks of hepatitis, and are reminding that testing and treatment is available in north Cumbria.
They want to raise awareness of the importance of knowing your hepatitis risk status, and to spread the word about treatment. Hepatitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the liver and is usually the result of a viral infection or liver damage caused by drinking alcohol.
Angela Sinkinson is a Viral Hepatitis Nurse at NCIC and said:
“Hepatitis C is the most common type of viral hepatitis in the UK. It's usually spread through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person, and in the UK, it's most commonly spread through sharing needles used to inject drugs.
“Risk factors for spreading the infection include: snorting or injecting drugs (including steroids); having unprotected sex; and getting a tattoo or body piercing."
15 to 30% of people will fight off the infection in the initial phase and be free of the virus. In the remaining cases, it'll stay in the body for many years. This is known as chronic hepatitis C and can cause cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer if not treated.
Although there's currently no vaccine available, Chronic Hepatitis C can be treated with very effective antiviral medications.
Ruth Harrington, Lead Hepatology Advanced Nurse at NCIC, said:
“Short-term hepatitis often has no noticeable symptoms, so you may not realise you have it. If you think you’re at risk of having hepatitis, the simple message is: don’t wait, take action.
“Testing is available across north Cumbria, and treatment for hepatitis C is provided by the Viral Hepatitis Service. Treatment is well tolerated and usually involves taking 1 tablet a day for 8-12 weeks.”
Angela added: “Some people may have been infected abroad through unsterile medical or dental treatments, particularly in areas of higher prevalence such as Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. If you were born in or had treatment in a country of higher prevalence we encourage you to get tested.
“During pregnancy and birth there is a 5% chance of transmission to the child, if parents think they may have been at risk we encourage them to be tested so that we can arrange treatment and monitoring, if needed”
Hepatitis C testing is available at the following sites across north Cumbria, please phone them for an appointment
- Brampton Pharmacy, Market Place - Tel. 016977 2501
- Seaton Pharmacy, 91 Main Road, Workington – Tel. 01900 676790
- Morrison’s Pharmacy, Brunswick Road, Penrith– Tel. 01768 862055
- Dalston Pharmacy, 2 Vicars Cottages, Dalston– Tel. 01228 715506
- Dalston Pharmacy, 7 Central Ave, Carlisle – Tel 01228 523312
- Seacliffe Pharmacy, High Road, Whitehaven – Tel 01946 599860
Other Places to be tested include:
- GP Practice
- Sexual Health Clinic
- Drug and Alcohol Team
There are several other types of hepatitis and there’s lots of information available about these nationally on the NHS website.
If symptoms develop, they can include:
- muscle and joint pain
- a high temperature
- feeling and being sick
- feeling unusually tired all the time
- a general sense of feeling unwell
- loss of appetite
- tummy pain
- dark urine
- pale, grey-coloured poo
- itchy skin
- yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
Globally, 325 million people live with hepatitis, with more than 1.1 million lives lost each year to hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Yet, we have the tools to eliminate the diseases by 2030.
Please contact your GP if you have any persistent or troublesome symptoms that you think could be caused by hepatitis