More people needed for hepatitis testing

If the risk of hepatitis infection is to be overcome, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has warned that people need to be more aware of the risk factors of hepatitis B and hepatitis C and be encouraged to present for testing. NICE believe that the awareness of the risk of infection needs to be raised amongst the general population, health professionals, and those at an increased risk.

More than half a million people in the UK are affected by hepatitis, either acute or chronic. If an acute infection (first six months) is left to become chronic it increases the risk of chronic liver damage, cirrhosis of the liver and primary liver cancer. In order to prevent this from increasing, NICE are advising that hepatitis B vaccination should not only be implemented on a wide-scale, but should be audited, and that those people who might be at risk of infection should be tested in a variety of settings in order to provide the latest treatments for hepatitis.

Those people at risk of hepatitis infection, a blood-borne virus, include people who have come into contact with contaminated blood such as through sexual infection, from mother-to-child, and through the use of infected needles. Estimates in England and Wales also suggest that the prison population, and those people of South Asian descent are also at an increased risk. NICE emphasise, however, that it is not only those people who are at risk themselves who should request testing, but health professionals working with them.

Professor Mike Kelly, the Director of Public Health at NICE warned that the people who have been diagnosed with hepatitis B or C are “…just the tip of the iceberg. Despite the availability of effective treatments and the potentially serious consequences of not being tested and treated, there still seems to be a general ignorance among the whole population… This lack of knowledge is undoubtedly contributing to a… low uptake of testing among those at increased risk of infection and stigma surrounding hepatitis B and C.”

If you would like more information on hepatitis B and C and are unsure whether you are at risk of infection read "Chronic Hepatitis B and C" by hepatologist, Dr Andrew Millar.

Has a sudden onset. Full medical glossary
A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
A disease of long duration generally involving slow changes. Full medical glossary
scarring of the liver. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
An organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. Full medical glossary
Inflammation to the liver with accompanying damage to liver cells. Full medical glossary
intermittent claudication Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
A large abdominal organ that has many important roles including the production of bile and clotting factors, detoxification, and the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Full medical glossary
The means of producing immunity by stimulating the formation of antibodies. Full medical glossary
A microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. Full medical glossary