Thousands infected with potentially deadly virus

Sharing toothbrushes may pose risk of hepatitis C infection
Sharing toothbrushes may spread hepatitis C (Image: Getty/iStockphoto)

Around 70,000 people in the UK are unaware they have hepatitis C, which is a treatable disease but can cause cancer, severe liver damage and death if left untreated.

The virus is spread through blood contact, including through sharing toothbrushes and razors.

As part of European Testing Week, health experts and charities are calling on the public to get tested using NHS England’s home testing service.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus. Symptoms include fever, feeling tired all the time, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice and depression.

In many cases, people with hepatitis C may live with the virus for decades before symptoms develop, at which point the damage to the liver may be irreversible.

But if diagnosed early enough, the virus can be cured in almost 100 percent of cases with simple antiviral drugs.

Sharing razors can also increase virus transmission
Sharing razors can also increase the spread of the virus (Image: Getty)

Hepatitis C is most commonly spread through sharing needles and other drug-using equipment, but sharing razors and toothbrushes, or having medical or cosmetic procedures in countries with higher rates of the virus can also increase the risk.

However, a recent survey revealed that 63% of the UK population do not know how the virus is spread, while 71% are unaware of its common symptoms.

“I don’t know anything about it”

Keith Hathway, a 48-year-old father of three, completed treatment for hepatitis C in 2019. Keith, from Bristol, started working for the Hepatitis C Trust in 2022 to help raise awareness of the virus and encourage more people to get tested.

“I was shocked when I was diagnosed with hepatitis C. My friends and I knew nothing about it. I was lucky that it was picked up at the time.

“It’s really important for people to get tested if they’re at risk. I think people sometimes think hepatitis C only affects drug users or homeless people. That’s not the case, I’ve worked with everyone from people in gyms to to people getting infections from tattoos.

“I am living proof that hepatitis C can be cured and treated. We just need to get more people tested.

Hepatitis C chief executive Rachel Halford said with public awareness of hepatitis C so low, there was a lack of testing within the public – and there were likely thousands of people who didn’t know they were facing it Risk of contracting the virus. believe.

“It may be years before you develop any symptoms of hepatitis C, but if the virus goes undetected, it can cause damage to your liver that can be life-threatening.” Fortunately, hepatitis C can be treated with a short course of treatment Pills to cure.

“If you’re worried about hepatitis C, it’s never been easier to get tested. NHS home testing kits will help you find out quickly and confidentially if you have the virus so you can start treatment immediately.

Visit to order your free home test

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