World Hepatitis Day
28 July 2021 was World Hepatitis Day, and the 2021 theme is Hepatitis Can’t Wait. It is estimated a person dies every 30 seconds from a hepatitis related illness, and approximately 354 million people worldwide live with hepatitis B or C. The World Hepatitis Alliance is urging countries to work together to achieve a hepatitis-free future.
There are several types of hepatitis, meaning inflammation of the liver, caused by viral infections or alcoholic liver damage. Some, such as hepatitis A or E are caused by contaminated food or drink, and others such as hepatitis B or C are bloodborne. Alcoholic hepatitis is caused by long term drinking of excessive amounts of alcohol. Vaccines are available for hepatitis A & B, though these are usually only recommended within the UK for people travelling to areas with high rates of these infections or those known to be at an increased risk of contracting hepatitis, for example healthcare workers.
Hepatitis C is the most common type of viral hepatitis in the UK and is contracted by contact with infected blood. This is frequently from injecting drugs with contaminated equipment, less commonly from unprotected sex and rarely from sharing items such as toothbrushes or razors. Symptoms include a high temperature, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and jaundice though many infected people will be asymptomatic.
What should I do if I think I have symptoms of hepatitis?
Early diagnosis is key to preventing chronic hepatitis and serious complications such as liver cancer, and if you experience any of the symptoms of hepatitis you should seek medical advice from your GP.
It is diagnosed using 2 blood tests, an antibody test and a PCR test, however, due to the high rate of people without symptoms, hepatitis may be missed in its early stages. If you are known to be at an increased risk of contracting hepatitis, regular testing may be recommended. Healthcare workers or laboratory technicians are at increased risk due to frequent close contact with bodily fluids. There is currently no vaccine available, though the NHS estimates current treatments can cure over 90% of people infected with hepatitis C.
Approximately 1 in 4 people will fight off the infection naturally, however those not able to are at risk of serious complications. If the infection is not picked up, liver cirrhosis can develop and life-threatening conditions including liver failure and liver cancer can occur.
Swain & Co Solicitors are experienced in managing claims involving infectious diseases, including failures to diagnose, failing to act on test results, and flawed infection control methods. If you or a loved one have experienced a delayed diagnosis or breach of care in the treatment of an infectious disease, contact our specialist clinical negligence team today to see how we can help.