Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Britons and NHS

Hepatitis test results can easily be misread


A survey published today shows that more than two thirds of doctors do not know how to read hepatitis C test results.

That means that as many of 90% of sufferers do not even know they are ill.

Catherine Ridgeway contracted the virus as a baby but despite displaying symptoms went undiagnosed for decades.

Hepatitis Factbox
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that infects liver cells
It was discovered in the 1980s
There are an around 200 million people worldwide infected
Around 20% will naturally clear the virus - the other 80% experience long-term affects
Hepatitis C is know as a 'silent epidemic' because its symptoms do not always show and when they do they can be misinterpreted by doctors

"My GP used to test me for diabetes and anaemia, but I knew it wasn't either of those because the blood tests always showed up negative," she said.

"I was shocked, but I also felt relief because I'd always suffered illness as a child and I knew I wasn't normal, like my friends."

Hepatitus C is a chronic, potentially fatal liver virus which is transmitted through blood or blood products, but can be passed on by sharing razors or toothbrushes.

Patients can live for years without suffering symptoms, meaning the illness goes undiagnosed, and can be passed on unwittingly.

Symptons of hepatitis C include weight loss, fatigue, nausea and tiredness.

"We do have to do more," said Charles Gore of the Hepatitis C Trust.

"The reason we have to do more is that we're going to have profound consequences.

"First of all on the NHS, which is going to have to spend a great deal of money managing people with liver disease.

"And then for the individuals who are going to die, and lots of them, just because somebody didn't offer them a test."

He added: "More must be done to equip GPs with the right information so they can correctly identify those who should be offered a hepatitis C test and interpret any result correctly."

There is no vaccine for hepatitis C but treatment can provide a cure in over half of patients.

It is a major cause of chronic liver disease in the UK, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.

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