Local GPs call on Lewisham residents to support World Hepatitis Day
On 28 July, Lewisham GPs are encouraging local residents to join the fight against viral hepatitis in support of World Hepatitis Day (WHD).
The theme of the WHD this year is the elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030, and the day will be marked by the launch of the new global movement NOhep – providing a platform for people to speak out, be engaged and take action to ensure viral hepatitis becomes a thing of the past.
In the UK alone, Hepatitis affects around 700,000 people according to the British Liver Trust, with over a quarter of these diagnoses being for one strain of the virus – Hepatitis C - for which there is currently no vaccine. Whilst one in four people will fight off the Hepatitis C vaccine themselves over time, the majority will carry the infection for life.
"Hepatitis is a major health threat across the globe, and London is no exception" explains Dr Marc Rowland, Chair of NHS Lewisham CCG. "In Lewisham alone, Hepatitis C affects over 2,000 people. As the infection doesn't generally show any symptoms, it can be left undiagnosed for years which can place a big strain on the liver and lead to conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
"It's estimated that 40 per cent of people infection with Hepatitis C are unaware of their condition."
"Getting tested for Hepatitis and following some basic advice for reducing your risk of infection are the two most important ways that you can protect yourself."
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is the name given to a group of viruses – A, B, C, D and E – which attack the liver and, over time, if left untreated, can lead to diseases such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Hepatitis A and E: usually spread by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated by the faeces of an infected person.
Hepatitis B: uncommon in the UK and is only transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids.
Hepatitis C: mainly spread through blood-to-blood contact, such as unprotected sex, injecting drugs or coming into direct contact with infected items like razors, toothbrushes or tattooist needles.
Hepatitis D: this strain of the virus is only found in people already infected by Hepatitis B.
Looking after yourself
There are vaccines available for all strains of Hepatitis, with the exception of Hepatitis C. You can also protect yourself by following a few simple steps.
Hepatitis A and E: practice good hygiene and only drinking bottled water when in high risk countries.
Hepatitis B and C: practice good hygiene, safe sex, don't share items such as razors, toothbrushes, nail scissors and needles, and only visit licensed tattooists.
If you're travelling abroad this summer, particularly outside Europe and North America, ask your GP practice or pharmacist for advice.
For more information on Hepatitis and World Hepatitis Day, visit www.worldhepatitisday.org or follow #NOhep on Twitter.