GPs are being encouraged to look out for patients who do not know they have hepatitis C, as part of a new campaign from the Department of Health.
The campaign, called Get Tested. Get Treated, urges people to remember life experiences which could have put them at risk of contracting the infection. It is thought there are around 100,000 people in England who do not know they have the virus.
GPs are urged to recognise at-risk groups, like former injecting drug users, and to offer information and testing.
If the virus is found, more than half of patients can be successfully treated, with an 80% success rate for some strains.
Health expert Dr David Colin-Thome, said: "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.
"GPs, as the key clinical carer for their patients, will need to be alert to risk factors and symptoms and ensure they get tested and treated."
Copyright © Press Association 2009
Do you welcome this campaign? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"It's about time! Until the extent of HCV infection is revealed, we will not get the needed federal support of medical research. We must open Pandora's box! My organization – Greenview Hepatitis C Fund – provides seed money for HCV research projects at the University of Michigan. But we can't sink the necessary big bucks into research" – Debbie Green, Michigan, USA
"The initial antibody tests are very inexpensive. Instead of just trying to target at-risk groups, EVERYONE should be tested. My experience is that most people will lie about past risky behaviour. Also, they may have engaged in behaviour that was risky without knowing it – like, using someone else's razor or toothbrush. My organization – LASH – Local Area Support For Hepatitis, Inc. – recommends that everyone gets tested ... period. I do definitely support your current effort wholeheartedly, however. There are so may undiagnosed people out there and early intervention and treatment can save lives" – Hollis Pickett, California, USA