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Hepatitis C on the increase

PUBLISHED: 10:03 15 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:56 03 July 2010

A RISING number of people in the region have contracted hepatitis C in the past year, concerned health bosses revealed yesterday.

Almost 700 people were diagnosed with the serious liver condition in the East of England, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), who are baffled as to the reasons behind the rise.

A RISING number of people in the region have contracted hepatitis C in the past year, concerned health bosses revealed yesterday.

Almost 700 people were diagnosed with the serious liver condition in the East of England, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), who are baffled as to the reasons behind the rise.

The HPA's latest annual report on hepatitis C shows that laboratory reporting of newly diagnosed infections in the region increased by 10pc compared to the previous year, with 680 new cases reported in 2008.

It brings the total diagnosed in the region over the last 10 years to over 5,000, but it is believed there are thousands more who are unaware they have the condition.

Dr Torbjorn Sundkvist, the HPA's regional lead on hepatitis C, said: “Our predictions indicate that the future burden of this disease on the health service will be substantial if awareness, diagnosis and treatment do not increase.”

Hepatitis C is a viral infection which causes swelling or inflammation of the liver. It is transmitted when the blood of an infected person mixes with a recipient's blood, often through the sharing of needles.

Because hepatitis C infection often shows no symptoms in the early years, many people remain undiagnosed, in some cases until liver disease is so advanced that a transplant is the only real option.

It is estimated that in Norfolk there are 1,368 are infected, 578 in Yarmouth and Waveney and 1,047 people in Suffolk.

Dr Sundkvist added: “Too many people remain undiagnosed. It is vital that we continue to raise awareness if individuals at risk of infection are to get tested and treated.”

Anyone who may be at risk of infection can contact their GP or the Hepatitis C Information Line on 0800 451 451 for confidential information and advice, or visit www.nhs.uk/hepc .

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