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Warning after rise in hep C cases

The number of cases of hepatitis C has increased by more than a third in two years. There were 7,882 cases confirmed in England in 2010, rising to 10,873 in 2012. Experts estimate there are 160,000 living with hep C, many unaware they are infected.

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Symptoms of hepatitis C often go unnoticed

The hepatitis C virus causes inflammation of the liver and, if left untreated, can result in liver disease, liver failure and even death.

Because the liver can still function when it is damaged, infected people can be unaware they have the disease because they suffer no symptoms.

When symptoms do occur, they are often vague and can be easily mistaken for another condition. Symptoms include:

  • flu-like symptoms including a high temperature
  • feeling tired all the time
  • headaches
  • problems with short-term memory
  • depression
  • stomach pains
  • feeling or being sick
  • loss of appetite
  • abdominal pain
  • itchy skin
  • joint and muscle aches and pain

In England, the most common way people catch the infection is by sharing injectable drugs equipment - accounting for nine in every 10 cases.

Less commonly, people can get hepatitis C through sex or being exposed to infected body fluids.

  • For more information on hepatitis C see the NHS website

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