The Hepatology Department at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust is marking an important milestone in the elimination of the blood borne virus Hepatitis C. Since the first patients were treated at Derriford Hospital in March 2001, 1000 patients have now been treated.
Hepatitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the liver. It is often caused by a viral infection with the hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus. If left undiagnosed and untreated, chronic viral hepatitis can lead to liver failure and or liver cancer, which can both be fatal.
Laura Bates, Viral Hepatitis Clinical Nurse Specialist, said: “We’re delighted with the success of the service and currently we have no treatment failures in Plymouth - which is excellent news, and we’re really keen that anyone known to have Hepatitis C come forward for treatment and those at risk of acquiring Hepatitis C get tested regularly.
“If you think you need testing, please don’t hesitate to contact us as soon as possible, the test is a simple finger prick test rather than a traditional venous sample.”
Professor Matthew Cramp, Consultant Hepatologist at UHP has extensive research and clinical trials experience in viral hepatitis. He said: “All patients that have come forward for Directly Acting Antivirals (DAA) Hepatitis C treatment and have had bloods taken for a treatment outcome, have had a sustained virological response to treatment, and are therefore cured of the virus.”
Figures from the World Hepatitis Alliance show that globally there are 1.4 million deaths per year from hepatitis B and C, and 290 million people living with viral hepatitis worldwide who are unaware that they have the condition.
About Hepatitis C
Many of those infected with hepatitis C in the UK are still undiagnosed, and others who know they are infected but are reluctant to come forward for treatment, often due to fear of judgement due to having the condition, as well as misconceptions about what treatment entails. However, treatments have greatly progressed over the last few years and are well tolerated, with next to no side effects. In particular, the treatment for hepatitis C is free, cures over 95% of all cases and normally involves taking anti-viral tablets for a course of just 8-12 weeks.
There are often no noticeable symptoms of hepatitis C at first, which means that many people may have the infection without realising it. However, this can lead to the liver becoming significantly damaged. Some people get symptoms such as muscle aches, a high temperature (fever), feeling tired all the time, a loss of appetite, stomach (abdominal) pain and sickness. When symptoms occur, they can be mistaken for another condition, so the only way to know for certain is for people to get tested.
Further information about hepatitis C, and how hepatitis C can be contracted, can be found here: https://www.plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk/hepatology-patient-information
The UK government has signed up to the World Health Organization target to eliminate the virus worldwide by 2030. NHS England has gone one step further and is aiming for England to be one of the first countries in the world to achieve elimination by 2025.
How to get tested in Plymouth
If you have any questions or would like to find out more about testing for hepatitis, please email: plh-tr.HEPATITISCODNMDT@nhs.net.