The advertising campaign, launched this week, invites the public initially to self-assess their risk of having hepatitis C by alerting them to the varied transmission routes for the virus and to seek medical advice if they believe themselves to have been at risk of infection.
The virus itself poses a particular challenge to health professionals as many patients with chronic hepatitis C infection fail to show any symptoms of infection for many years. Highlighting the risk factors for the virus, therefore, can increase the likelihood of affected members of the public seeking medical advice on the need for testing. There is effective drug therapy to treat hepatitis C recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence that can prevent progression to serious liver disease so it is important that patients who may be infected are offered testing.
Dr Chris Ford, Member of the Sex, Drugs & HIV Task Group at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said, "The launch of the advertising campaign is a timely reminder to GPs and their practice teams to be mindful of this very serious virus. The RCGP fully supports the Department of Health's campaign to raise awareness of hepatitis C and believes that GPs play a key role in preventing its spread and increasing diagnosis. We would urge all GPs to view hepatitis C as a serious health concern ensure they are fully aware of the transmission routes, diagnostic process and prognosis of the virus, and to be mindful of it when interacting with patients."
The advertising campaign is running for an initial four-week period prior to Christmas and is expected to be repeated in early 2008. Adverts will appear across national newspapers and regional radio stations.
There is a suite of free hepatitis C information resources available to GPs and practice nurses including waiting room posters, patient leaflets, and a briefing pack for healthcare professionals, by contacting the Department of Health’s publication line on 08701 555 455, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting www.hepc.nhs.uk
The advertising campaign forms part of the Department of Health’s hepatitis C awareness campaign ‘FaCe It’, which aims to raise awareness of the virus and its prevention, diagnosis and treatment, while tackling the stigma often attached to it.
For more information please contact Leigh Morrison or Simon Goldsborough on 020 7815 3900 or email email@example.com
Notes to Editors:
- For more information about Department of Health policy on hepatitis C please contact the Media Centre on 020 7210 5221.
- Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that can lead to serious liver damage (cirrhosis and primary liver cancer). It is recognised as a significant public health problem worldwide. In England, it is estimated that there are approximately 200,000 people chronically infected and that the majority of these are probably unaware of their infection. There is currently no vaccine against hepatitis C, so prevention of new infections is particularly important. There is effective antiviral drug treatment, that has been approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). Lifestyle changes, in particular decreasing alcohol intake, can delay the onset of liver disease.
- The Department of Health’s hepatitis C awareness campaign (“FaCe It”) supports the Hepatitis C Action Plan for England, which seek to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C. The Action Plan is available on the DH website at: www.dh.gov.uk/publications and www.dh.gov.uk/cmo
- The first burst of press and radio advertising took place in February and March 2007.
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