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NHS Sussex calls for better awareness and testing to address ‘silent killers’

Thursday 28th July, 2011

On Thursday 28 July NHS Sussex will join millions of people across the world in marking World Hepatitis Day 2011.

1 in 12 people worldwide is living with hepatitis B or C. A million people die every year as a result. Yet these are preventable, treatable diseases.

In the UK at least 500,000 people have hepatitis B or C. Fewer than half of them have been diagnosed.

There are estimated to be 5000 people in Sussex, who have Hepatitis C Virus, and the large majority of these people are not aware of their infection, while treatment is available. But work is underway by the local NHS.

Local action taking place across Sussex

Brighton and Hove, for example, has recently introduced pharmacy-based testing which supports wider efforts to address high levels of hepatitis B and C amongst drug users in the city.

Estimates suggest that levels of hepatitis C in Brighton and Hove are in the top 25 per cent of the country and twice the average for the South East.

Local health professionals are now calling for greater use of testing services to be available in Sussex.

In East Sussex, new services that target people who take steroids by injection are being piloted in Eastbourne and Hastings. Everyone who seeks help with a drug problem is routinely offered vaccination for hepatitis B, and testing for hepatitis C.

Working together

Dr Andrew Foulkes, medical director for NHS Sussex said: "It’s important that we all work together to raise public awareness of hepatitis B and C and how the virus is spread. That’s why events like World Hepatitis Day can help save lives."

“World Hepatitis Day is about saving lives. We must raise awareness of viral hepatitis and how solvable it is. People should not be dying of preventable, treatable, curable diseases.” added Charles Gore, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust and President of the World Hepatitis Alliance.

“There has been such an increase in commitment in all parts of the UK in the last couple of years that we are now tantalisingly close to turning the corner on viral hepatitis. We’re not quite there yet, but services like those in Sussex are key to making this a reality."

About World Hepatitis Day

Last year World Hepatitis Day on 28 July became one of just four official WHO days for specific diseases, bringing recognition of viral hepatitis in line with that of HIV, TB and Malaria.  

World Hepatitis Day 2011 therefore marks a very significant turning point for efforts to address these potentially fatal diseases. Awareness currently is fatally low and completely out of line with the numbers affected and the devastating impact these diseases have in the UK and globally:

  • 1 in 12 people in the world has chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
  • A third of the world’s population has been exposed to hepatitis B at some point in their life.
  • Only tobacco causes more cancer globally.
  • 170 million people worldwide are estimated to be living with chronic hepatitis C. It is the leading cause of liver transplant in Europe.
  • Between them hepatitis B and C they kill 1 million people every year.
  • Undiagnosed and untreated, hepatitis B and hepatitis C can cause potentially fatal liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer. Yet both viruses can be prevented and treated and hepatitis C can be cured.