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Reuters Health Information (2004-12-08): UK launches hepatitis C campaign

Public Health

UK launches hepatitis C campaign

Last Updated: 2004-12-08 11:04:34 -0400 (Reuters Health)

LONDON (Agence de Presse Medicale for Reuters Health) - The UK government on Wednesday launched a 2-million pound campaign to encourage thousands of people who don't know they are infected with hepatitis C to get themselves tested.

Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England, said: "Hepatitis C has emerged as a significant public health challenge over recent years, which is why we need to intensify efforts to prevent new cases and to diagnose and treat those who are already infected."

"In England it is estimated that there are approximately 200,000 people chronically infected and the majority of these are unaware of their infection," he continued.

The Health Department said posters and leaflets will explain how the virus is spread, give advice on how to avoid infection, and encourage at-risk groups to find out more about getting tested. People will also be able to call a confidential telephone information line.

Chronic hepatitis C infection can lead over time to cirrhosis and primary liver cancer. At-risk groups include drug users who shared needles or syringes, and people who received a blood transfusion before screening for the virus was introduced in 1991.

The campaign is expected to benefit Roche and Schering-Plough, which market peginterferon alfa (Pegasys/Roche and PegIntron/Schering-Plough), for the treatment of hepatitis C. However, health charities said the government is still not doing nearly enough.

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