Hundreds of Blackpool people could be living with a ‘silent’ and dangerous disease without knowing.
That’s the message from the Hepatitis C Trust and medics at Blackpool Victoria Hospital as the charity says the resort has an estimated 1,300 with the condition.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus, which can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer, but if caught early can be treated and cleared.
And Blackpool has the highest rates of premature mortality from liver disease in the country.
The charity believes only about half of those with the illness have been diagnosed and three per cent of them have treatment each year.
To help raise awareness, the charity took its Hep C roadshow to St John’s Square, in Blackpool town centre.
It carried out risk assessments on the day to see how likely people might be to be at risk of the virus, before testing 33 people. Members of the public could ask questions and find out more about the illness and risk factors – which include intravenous drug use, sharing needles and blood transfusions before 1991.
Mike Rolland, nurse practitioner at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, said: “It is common for many people live with Hepatitis C without ever realising because they often don’t have symptoms.
“It is vital we diagnose people as early as possible to make treatment more effective.
“If it’s left without being detected and treated, it can lead to serious illness.
“Anyone who thinks they might have ever have been at risk should consider testing.”
One Blackpool patient, who did not wish to be identified, urged other people to get tested for Hep C, saying it was “the best thing” she had ever done.
“It saved my life. I was in rehab for alcohol and drugs when they gave me the test and found I had Hep C.
“I was given the treatment and that’s been successful.
“The Hep C team at the hospital were brilliant, they explained everything and made me feel looked after.”
The 52-year-old said: “I don’t like to think what would’ve happened if it hadn’t been picked up.
“I would urge anyone to have the test if they feel they might be at risk. I am so glad I did.”