The Department of Health is gearing up to launch a hepatitis C public health campaign to improve detection and diagnosis among the 100,000 people in England who are thought to be unaware they have the infection.
The campaign will get underway at the start of next month with radio and press advertising to remind the public of life experiences that could have exposed them to infection.
GPs will be encouraged to support the campaign by offering information and testing for patients in at risk groups.
The campaign coincides with the 20th anniversary of the virus being identified and follows a recent letter from the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing Officers to Primary Care Trusts on improving the detection and diagnosis of hepatitis C in primary care.
Many people who have hepatitis C do not show symptoms for many years and may have normal liver function tests. Over time, hepatitis C can cause serious liver damage (cirrhosis, primary liver cancer or liver failure), which can be prevented by effective drug therapy.
The Department is calling on GPs to be extra vigilant and consider testing for the virus in patients in at risk groups such as those who may have injected drugs in the past, even if only once or twice or a long time ago, or those who may have had a tattoo or piercing with unsterile equipment.
In the lead up to the campaign, a number of information resources are being made available for health professionals, including on NHS Choices, a quick reference guide for primary care and a new patient information leaflet.
Professor Steve Field, Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners said: "We are pleased to see the launch of a new phase of the Department of Health's campaign to raise awareness of hepatitis C amongst GPs and the public. GPs play an important role in detection and diagnosis of hepatitis C and we want this to continue. It is important to make sure that healthcare professionals are aware of the transmission routes, and diagnosis and treatment of the virus, so that patients at risk are identified at the earliest possible opportunity and can be treated effectively."
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Last updated on: 27/08/2010