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Reuters Health Information (2007-11-01): Hepatitis C knowledge deficient among UK general practitioners

Professional Development

Hepatitis C knowledge deficient among UK general practitioners

Last Updated: 2007-11-01 16:25:09 -0400 (Reuters Health)

PARIS (Reuters Health) - General practitioners (GPs) in the UK are poorly informed about chronic hepatitis C, according to survey results presented at the 15th United European Gastroenterology Week (UEGW).

Dr. Raymond DeSouza, with the department of gastroenterology at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, UK, reported findings from questionnaires completed by 850 GPs from North London three years after the UK Department of Health launched a hepatitis awareness campaign targeting GPs.

Results revealed that 21% of GPs were not aware that the presence of antibody to hepatitis C indicates that patients no longer have active disease.

Forty one percent believed that maternofetal transmission occurs in greater than 50% of cases while the true figure is 5%.

Only 21% knew that 20% of patients develop cirrhosis after 30 years.

Fifty-eight percent of GPs correctly stated that therapy was effective in 50% of cases.

As many as 19% mistakenly believed that homosexuals represent a high-risk population, and 11% mistakenly believed that patients with learning disabilities are at increased risk.

Twenty eight percent said they did not screen their patients for hepatitis C infection.

"Hepatitis C is a silent disease until the late stages, which makes this virus very difficult to detect," Dr. DeSouza said. "Only 10% of infected persons are aware of their infection, which means that the remainder of patients are asymptomatic and have not been diagnosed."

Therefore, he concluded, "It is imperative that GPs are aware of the risk factors, diagnosis, management, complications and treatment of this disease as they are the first health care professionals to come into contact with infected individuals."

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