There is a health warning today about a disease many people don't even realise they have got. Experts have spent the day in Lincoln advising people about the dangers of leaving hepatitis C undiagnosed. It can cause severe liver problems and even prove fatal.
Hepatitis C can go undiagnosed for years with no symptoms. The roadshow which arrived in Lincoln this morning wants people to ask whether they are at risk from the disease. Brian Burns was diagnosed after 23 years of drug addiction:
It is estimated 14,000 people in our region have the disease. More than half won't know. Fewer still, around 3%, are being treated. The Health Protection Agency published a report in 2012 which broke down the figures further:
- Lincolnshire - 1453
- North East Lincolnshire - 526
- North Lincolnshire - 506
- North Yorkshire - 1298
- York - 725
- Sheffield - 2083
- Wakefield - 1145
- Barnsley - 791
- Rotherham - 932
- Hull - 1691
- Bradford - 2609
Testing at the roadshow is a simple process as explained by Helen Waby who volunteered to be screened herself:
The most recent national estimates suggest that around 216,000 individuals are chronically infected with hepatitis C in the UK. It is passed through blood to blood contact. Factors that can cause an increased risk of the disease include:
- Receiving a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1991.
- Current or past drug use including sharing of needles or snorting equipment.
- Blood transfusions or medical procedures in a developing country.
- Tattoos or piercings with unsterilised equipment.
- Sharing razors or toothbrushes with someone infected.
- Men who have sex with men are also at a higher risk of contracting the disease.
Untreated, the disease attacks the liver and can prove fatal, a message the event organisers have been trying to get across to shoppers in Lincoln:
Treatments are now available which can cure the disease if it is caught early enough. Nurse Karen Murray has been speaking to people at the roadshow about what options are available:
The roadshow moves to Sheffield tomorrow. Anyone who wants further information can find it at the Hepatitis C Trust website or by calling their helpline on 0845 223 4424.
Watch James Webster's full report about the testing roadshow below: