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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 June, 2005, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Executive takes on 'killer' virus
Man injecting drugs
Hep C is particularly prevalent among injecting drug users
Proposals to tackle Scotland's "hidden killer" Hepatitis C have been unveiled by Health Minister Andy Kerr.

An estimated 50,000 people in Scotland have been infected with the disease, about a third of whom live in the Greater Glasgow area.

This accounts for 1% of the population, compared with a figure of about 0.5% for the rest of the UK.

The proposals include the development of new guidelines and more information for injecting drug users.

Mr Kerr said: "This is a wide-ranging piece of work which outlines actions for a number of bodies to tackle Scotland's hidden killer.

"I want to see NHS boards, the voluntary sector, Health Protection Scotland and professionals from a range of specialities getting involved with helping Hepatitis C sufferers and promote understanding of the condition.

Action needs to be taken to reduce the transmission of Hepatitis C
Professor Peter Donnelly
Deputy chief medical officer

"Once we have a finalised plan, these measures will help us make great strides in taking forward actions to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the virus."

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Peter Donnelly said Hepatitis C was a "significant public health problem" across the world and one for which there is currently no vaccine.

He said prevention of new infections was particularly important.

Prof Donnelly added: "It can infect a patient for decades before being discovered, but around 20 to 30% of people with chronic Hepatitis C will eventually face life-threatening symptoms.

"Particularly prevalent among injecting drug users, action needs to be taken to reduce its transmission, so I am pleased to see the proposed action plan for consultation being published today."

The draft plan will now go out to public consultation for three months.

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