12:05pm Wednesday 17th October 2007
ACTION is being taken to combat the rising number of hepatitis C infections in Herefordshire.
Herefordshire Community Safety and Drugs Partnership is raising awareness across the county and encouraging people to find out if they have contracted the virus.
The organisation joined the Drugs Advisory Service Herefordshire (DASH) on Monday and set up a stand in High Town to give information and advice to the public as part of a countywide campaign which also provides information to all Herefordshire GPs, pharmacies and community centres.
Geoff Hughes, of the partnership, said: "Hepatitis C can go unnoticed for a long period, but once detected it can be successfully treated to prevent it progressing.
"If you think you may be at risk of having hepatitis C, we would urge you to see your GP as soon as possible so you can start accessing treatment."
The infection is transmitted mainly by contact with the blood of an infected person but there may be many who do not realise they have it as it can take years or even decades for symptoms to appear.
People at risk include those who received a blood transfusion before September 1991, or blood products such as clotting factors before 1986, and those who have ever shared equipment for injecting drugs - even if it was a long time ago and it only happened once or twice. Less commonly, hepatitis C can also be passed on by an infected mother to her baby or through unprotected sex.
Around one in four people with hepatitis C will get rid of it naturally but some will develop a chronic infection, which can be effectively treated, with many people living out a normal lifespan.
If you think you may have contracted hepatitis C contact DASH, your GP or GUM clinic for advice on testing.
A simple blood test can establish whether you have ever been infected with the virus and more tests can then determine whether you still have the virus.
For more information on hepatitis C, visit www.hepc.nhs.uk.
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