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Missing hep C patients sought

Tuesday January 27th, 2009

A new drive to track down thousands of people unaware they carry the hepatitis C virus was launched yesterday.

Government officials believe there are some 100,000 people who have contracted the virus and do not know it.

The latest campaign will seek to alert the public to the ways the virus can be transmitted - and lay to rest myths.

Officials hope that people who have shared needles during drug injection or who have used back-street tattoo parlours may realise they might have been infected.

An ICM poll commissioned by the department of health showed that 40 per cent of people do not realise that needles used for tattoos, piercing or acupuncture may be infectious if they are not sterilised.

Some 25 per cent do not know that injecting drugs with shared needles can pass on the virus.

And one in eight people believe kissing can pass the virus on, the research showed.

Charles Gore, chief executive of the Hepatitis C Trust, warned: "Twenty years down the line, it's worrying to see the public still believe so many myths around hepatitis C. Education is absolutely essential to eradicating this problem.

"We'd urge anyone who feels they might be at risk to get tested, and health professionals to be vigilant to diagnosing patients."

Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson said: "Around 100,000 people in England are estimated to be unaware that they have hepatitis C. It can take years or even decades for symptoms to appear, if at all, and if left untreated can lead to liver damage and premature death.

"Fortunately, effective treatment is available, so it's vital that people who may have been at risk of infection seek medical advice and get tested."

Tags: Flu & Viruses | UK News

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