Medway NHS Foundation Trust speaks up on Hepatitis C
Date: 27 July 2018
To mark World Hepatitis Day (Saturday 28 July 2018), our staff at Medway Maritime Hospital have been raising awareness of the blood disease Hepatitis C. A fully curable form of Hepatitis, the World Health Organisation aims to eliminate Hepatitis C worldwide by 2030, with NHS England aiming to make the UK the first country to be free of the disease.
“Around 80% of people with Hepatitis C don’t realise they have it; they carry it for years without realising” explains Louise Eales, one of the nurse specialists working at Medway and caring for patients with Hepatitis C. “Only about a quarter of people who catch it show symptoms at first. They get a slight fever, they feel fatigued and lose their appetite, maybe they get a stomach ache or are sick. They think they’ve picked up a cold or a tummy bug, but they’ve actually picked up a condition that can become very serious.''
Longer-term symptoms of Hepatitis C can include ‘brain fog’ – a difficulty in concentrating – chronic fatigue as well as dry eyes and irritable bowels and bladder. More seriously, Hepatitis C has also been linked to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer; it can be fatal. Because it is often missed, it can be passed on without realising. In the general population the condition is more common amongst the ‘baby boomer’ generation (those born between around 1940 and 1960); transmitted blood-to-blood, Hepatitis C can be passed on through unprotected sex and shared drug and tattoo needles. Infection from contaminated blood products and transfusions is, fortunately, now very rare due to increased clinical safeguards.
Fortunately, new advances in medical treatment have meant that curing Hepatitis C is easier than ever. “The medicines that are available today are very effective” says Louise. “Prior to 2015 the treatment could make people feel very unwell; now most people don’t have any side effects or, if they do, they’re quite minor. The new drugs have about 95 per cent efficacy; of the 160 or so patients we’ve treated with them, we’ve only had one case where we needed to try something different.” Treatment typically involves taking one tablet a day for up to 12 weeks. After treatment patients can expect to have been fully cured of Hepatitis C.
If you are concerned about Hepatitis C and want to find out whether you may be a carrier of the disease, please contact your GP.
To mark World Hepatitis Day (Saturday 28 July 2018), our staff at Medway Maritime Hospital have been raising awareness of the blood disease Hepatitis C.