NHS Forth Valley joins Hepatitis C campaign

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NHS Forth Valley is taking part in a national campaign to encourage Hepatitis C patients who may have dropped out of specialist treatment to re-engage with health professionals.

The #BeHepCFree social media initiative is also targeting individuals who believe there is a chance they might have contracted the disease to come forward to get tested.

Of the estimated 21,000 people in Scotland living with Hepatitis C half of them are undiagnosed and many of those who do know they have the illness never come forward for specialist care.

Until recently the treatment for Hepatitis C included weekly injections for a year with side effects that mimic flu symptoms and at the end of the 12 months there was less than a one in two chance of a cure.

Many people with the illness didn’t complete or even start treatment.

Nowadays Hepatitis C treatment comes in the form of new tablet-only medicines with minimal side effects and taking one tablet per day over an eight week period produces a 98 per cent cure rate.

Carol Crawford, NHS Forth Valley’s Public Health lead for Hepatitis C, said: “If you have ever been at risk of contracting Hepatitis C, either many years ago or currently, please get tested – just contact the local Hepatology Service on 01786 434079 or your local GP.

“If you are positive you can get treated right away as there is no waiting list. The message is get tested now, get treated and get cured.”

In Scotland, Hepatitis C infection can be caught by injecting or snorting any drugs, including bodybuilding drugs.

Other risks include body piercings and tattoos (particularly home tattoos), previous blood transfusions, needle stick injuries, attending traditional barbers who use open blades whilst on holiday, or having undertaken any medical, surgical or dental treatments abroad.

Hepatitis C can be spread by sexual activity, but other blood borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis B are more commonly spread in this way.