Former Hepatitis C patient urges people to get tested as drive to eradicate disease gathers pace

  • Watch a video report by ITV News Anglia's Graham Stothard

A former Hepatitis C patient is urging people "to get tested and get treated" as he spoke about his fears after being diagnosed with the disease.

Mark Brunning, 56, was diagnosed with Hepatitis C five years ago, having lived with the virus for around 20 years.

He became infected as a drug user but struggled to access testing and treatment. He's now free of the virus after 16 weeks of a drug treatment.

"Hepatitis C seems to have been forgotten because it takes so long to take effect because the symptoms are apparently so mild," he told ITV News.

"But when they do hit, you're talking of liver failure, liver cancer. And I know people who have died from it.

"I know people have had horrendous experiences in hospitals with liver transplants, and I was aware of the prospect of being one of those people.

"They didn’t get the treatment they needed, mainly because it wasn’t accessible enough and they didn’t get the right support. That’s changed now."

The mobile van was recently taken to Latitude to test people at the festival. Credit: ITV News Anglia

In the East of England, testers led by Addenbrooke’s Hospital say they are on track to eradicate it in three years' time, with targets already reached in Wisbech in Cambridgeshire and Grays in Essex.

A community van means people can get quicker testing near to where they live and helps those who may find it difficult to get to hospital.

The van also goes to festivals - last week it went to Latitude in Suffolk.

Using the mobile unit allowed medics to test nearly 3,000 people last year, with more than 500 starting treatment.

Testing usually involves a finger prick test or mouth swab. Credit: ITV News Anglia

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus, which means it goes from blood to blood.

Transmission can be through old or homemade tattoos or piercings, current or past drug use, anal sex, blood transfusions before 1991 and sometimes healthcare abroad.

The virus goes in to the liver cells and replicates itself, which over several years can cause serious liver scarring and complications. 

With a lack of clear symptoms, people can be infected with hepatitis C and go undiagnosed for years.  

If left too long, the virus can cause fatal liver damage and possibly lead to liver cancer.

Treatment is easy to take, involving tablets with few or no side effects and a 96% cure rate.

Rachel Bates, clinical nurse at Addenbrooke's Hospital told ITV News Anglia that the mobile van had been invaluable.

“Traditionally treatment was in the hospital and we've cleared the backlog of people that needed to have treatment.

"Now we're out there finding people that either don't know they've got it or haven't been able to get into treatment for one reason or another.”

Mr Brunning now works as a patient advocate for the service. His message is simple.

"Get tested, get treated, get cured.”

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