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Get tested for Hepatitis C


People in Oxfordshire are being urged to get tested for Hepatitis C as thousands of people across England could be living with the condition unknowingly, medical professionals at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) have warned.

The virus, which affects the liver and is spread through blood-to-blood contact, could impact around 70,000 people.

Hepatitis C can be cured. However, if left untreated, it can lead to cancer, severe liver damage and liver failure. It is therefore important to find Hepatitis C and treat it to prevent these life-changing complications.

People over the age of 18 who live in England can order free and confidential home tests for Hepatitis C via the Hepatitis C testing portal on the NHS website.

Launched in May 2023, this is an at-home, self-sample test taking a few drops of blood from a finger. If found positive for Hepatitis C, patients can be treated and cured.

Dr Michael Pavlides, Hepatology Consultant at OUH and Thames Valley Hepatitis C Clinical Lead, said: "The NHS and OUH are aiming to eliminate Hepatitis C as a major public health threat by 2025.

"Achieving this ambition is crucial. Many people are unknowingly living with Hepatitis C and, if left untreated, it can lead to life-threatening conditions like liver cancer or liver failure.

"While significant progress is being made to reduce the number of people with Hepatitis C, more needs to be done to prevent new infections and reinfections. To reach our goal of eliminating Hepatitis C we need to get more people testing, so please do get tested when you can."

Hepatitis C is transmitted through contact with infected blood. People who are at risk of Hepatitis C include those who have:

  • Injected drugs recreationally or for performance enhancing purposes – even once
  • Ever shared drug-taking paraphernalia – even once
  • Had a blood transfusion or blood products or organ transplant before 1991
  • Had medical or dental procedures or tattoos abroad where infection control measures may be poor
  • Had unprotected sex with someone who had the Hepatitis Shared toothbrushes and razors can rarely transmit Hepatitis C, but we encourage as many people as possible to get tested even if their risks are very low
  • Or were born abroad in areas of high prevalence like Eastern Europe, South East Asia, some countries in Africa, and the South Caucasus region.

Hepatitis C often does not have any noticeable symptoms until the liver has been significantly damaged, meaning many people can have the infection for a long time without realising it. When symptoms do occur – such as feeling tired, loss of appetite, feeling sick, or flu-like symptoms – they are non-specific and do not always lead to a correct diagnosis.

The condition can be treated with medicines, which usually need to be taken for several weeks, that stop the virus multiplying inside the body.

'Hepatitis C can be a ticking time bomb'

The Thames Valley Hepatitis C team based at OUH is focusing on finding people living with Hepatitis C to treat them.

The team operates from hospitals in the Thames Valley region (Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, and Swindon) and carries out activities in the community to reach populations at risk of Hepatitis C.

Since the team was established in 2017, more than 2,000 patients have been treated successfully.

One of those patients to get tested using the Hepatitis C portal is Paul from Buckinghamshire, who is in his sixties.

After being encouraged to get tested by a family member because of his experimentation with drugs in his late teens and a blood transfusion he had when he was a child, Paul received a positive Hepatitis C test in July 2023.

Following further tests and scans, he had a course of tablets and, as of this month, further tests have confirmed he no longer has Hepatitis C.

Paul said: "It was important to me and my family to get tested because, although I strongly doubted I was infected and I had no symptoms, I wanted to be sure. It was therefore a nasty surprise to receive a positive test, leaving me concerned.

"My greatest fear was about how much unknown damage has already occurred. Luckily I got myself tested so I could be treated.

"The process of getting a test was all very smooth and efficient, with great support."

Paul is now encouraging others to get tested for Hepatitis C.

He said: "Hepatitis C can be a ticking time bomb inside of you. You can be completely unaware of having it, even for up to several decades after infection. If you do have it, without diagnosis and treatment the damage can get worse.

"Testing is done at home and is quick, simple and free. Treatments are also free, highly effective, and will most likely cure you."

He added: "Don't assume you aren't infected just because you don’t notice any symptoms. The sooner it is found and dealt with, the better for you and others in your life. There are several possible ways infection can happen, either common or more obscure."

Awareness campaign

The Thames Valley Hepatitis C team has launched an awareness campaign across the Thames Valley region, including radio ads and promotion at football matches, encouraging people to get tested.

Dayo Leduwe, Thames Valley Operational Delivery Network Manager at OUH, said: "We are appealing to people across the Thames Valley to get tested by ordering the free and confidential finger-prick test from the NHS website. Those who receive a positive test result will be contacted and referred for treatment."

For advice on Hepatitis C before or after a test, please contact the Oxford Hepatology Community Nursing team on 01865 222 057.