24 May 2019
A new approach to prevent liver scarring caused by the hepatitis C virus is being launched today (June 12, 2019).
Hepatitis C can remain unnoticed in people carrying it, until it starts to cause serious damage to the liver. The virus is treatable with a two to three-month course of medication, but people at risk of infection need to get tested.
University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Solent NHS Trust and the University of Southampton are working with Southampton City Council to set up testing points at pharmacies throughout the city to help identify people with hepatitis C.
A simple blood spot test can identify the virus and alert a specialist doctor based at the hospital, who will then offer advice and links to treatment.
NHS England has set a target of eliminating hepatitis C by 2025 and following on from a successful research trial on the Isle of Wight, Dr Ryan Buchanan and Dr Charlotte Cook have been training pharmacists to carry out the blood spot test in Southampton to extend the work.
This and the original research on the Island was funded by the National Institute for Health Research – the research arm of the NHS.
Dr Buchanan says: “One of the big challenges of this work has been to find people who carry the virus. Having the test in a pharmacy is more accessible than booking an appointment with a GP or going to a hospital. The treatment of Hepatitis C is now much easier to take as it can be given as just one pill a day for a few months. It is now within our reach to eliminate the virus from the City of Southampton.”
Cllr Dave Shields, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Southampton City Council, said: “We are delighted that local people will be able to be tested for hepatitis C in pharmacies. Unfortunately, many people have the virus and just don’t know until it’s too late. Yet testing and treatment are easy – just a finger prick blood
test and tablets. We are excited to support the Southampton clinical and research teams in their work to eliminate Hepatitis C.”
You are at risk of getting hepatitis C if you have ever injected drugs, have had dental or medical treatment in a high-risk country, had a tattoo or piercing with non-sterile equipment, received an infected blood transfusion or had sexual contact with an infected person.
Today’s event in the Mayoral Chambers at the Civic centre in Southampton marks the start of the campaign to encourage people who may be at risk or have been at risk in the past to come forward and get tested and treated.
In addition to testing for hepatitis C, the blood spot can also identify the HIV virus and the hepatitis B virus, and the team is working with the sexual health services run by Solent NHS Trust to help treat HIV.
If you are interested in attending the launch event it will start at 4.30pm on Wednesday June 12, 2019.
If you would like to attend, ask more questions or arrange an interview then please contact Jamie Stevenson on Tel: 02380 597974 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information visit the Hepatitis C trust website: http://www.hepctrust.org.uk
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