An island-wide campaign is being launched to encourage anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to risk of contracting hepatitis C to get themselves tested at a community pharmacy.
The Isle of Wight is leading the way in community testing with 22 pharmacies offering ‘finger prick’ testing for hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV.
Hepatitis C is a virus which directly affects the liver. It causes very few symptoms, allowing it to hide within the body so people are often unaware they carry the infection, however, over many years it can irritate the liver causing permanent scarring (also known as cirrhosis) and liver cancer.
Dr Ryan Buchanan, Hepatology Research Fellow at Isle of Wight NHS Trust, said:
“Historically, hepatitis C has been difficult to treat but this is changing, new therapies are more effective and cause fewer side effects.
“We think there are approximately 200 people on the Island who unknowingly have hepatitis C so we are encouraging anyone who has the following risk factors to go along to one of the participating pharmacies and get tested. The symptoms are not always spotted so you may not know you’re infected and, left untreated, the virus could lead to serious complications which can be fatal.”
Testing is quick and easy and involves a simple finger-prick test. The results are available within two weeks and you will be seen to discuss the results with your testing pharmacist and outreach liver specialist who will plan your ongoing care.
The risk factors include:
- Have you ever injected drugs, including steroids, even once?
- Have you had a tattoo, piercing or acupuncture in unregistered premises or with possibly unsterile equipment?
- Have you received a blood transfusion or blood products prior to 1991?
- Were you born or received medical procedures in a high risk area (Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa)?
- Have you ever pricked yourself on a needle or sharp object that has been used on someone else?
- Have you had unprotected sex with anyone who is known to have HIV, hepatitis B or C or might have been at risk for any of the reasons listed above?
- Have you regularly shared razors or toothbrushes with anyone who is known to have hepatitis B or C or might have been at risk for any of the reasons listed above?
Further information about Hepatitis C can be found at http://www.hepctrust.org.uk/ or on the NHS Choices website at http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hepatitis-c/pages/introduction.aspx.
The 22 participating pharmacies include:
- Boots – Sandown, Rink Road Ryde, Bembridge, Cowes, Newport, High Street Ryde, Sandown, Ventnor & Freshwater
- Day Lewis Pharmacy – Cowes, Lake, Shanklin, Newport and Carisbrooke
- Tesco Pharmacy – Ryde
- Lloyds Pharmacy – Carisbrooke, Pyle Street Newport
- Regent Pharmacy – East Cowes and Shanklin
- Gibbs & Gurnell Ryde
- Seaview Pharmacy
- Yarmouth Pharmacy
- Niton Pharmacy