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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 February 2007, 14:10 GMT
Body Shop founder has Hepatitis C
Anita Roddick
Dame Anita has Hepatitis C
Body Shop founder Dame Anita Roddick has said she has Hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver.

Dame Anita, 64, said she contracted the disease through a blood transfusion while giving birth to her youngest daughter, Sam, in 1971.

She was diagnosed with Hepatitis C two years ago and cirrhosis, a long-term effect of the disease, recently.

"It's a bit of a bummer... I had no idea I had this virus. I was having routine blood tests when it showed up."

In a statement posted on her website, she added: "What I can say is that having Hep C means that I live with a sharp sense of my own mortality, which in many ways makes life more vivid and immediate.

I want to blow the whistle on the fact that Hep C must be taken seriously as a public health challenge
Anita Roddick

"It makes me even more determined to just get on with things."

Dame Anita has just become a patron of the Hepatitis C Trust, the only UK charity devoted to the virus.

She turned to the charity for information and help when she was diagnosed with the disease.

Dame Anita called for greater public awareness and better funding for the disease. It is often known as the "silent killer", because people with the disease may show no symptoms initially.

She said: "Well, I've always been a bit of a 'whistleblower' and I'm not going to stop now.

"I want to blow the whistle on the fact that Hep C must be taken seriously as a public health challenge and must get the attention and resources that it needs."

Stomach pain

The virus is carried in the blood and people who share needles are particularly at risk.

Dame Anita said it was especially important for people over 50 and anyone who had had a transfusion before 1991 - when the NHS started to test donated blood for the virus - to come forward for testing.

Professor William Rosenberg, of the University of Southampton, said 90% of people carrying the virus have not been diagnosed.

He said one of the problems was that it causes general symptoms including stomach pain, feelings of being unwell and poor concentration.

No vaccine exists to prevent Hepatitis C infection, but treatments are available which are effective in more than half of cases.

Dame Anita set up the first Body Shop in Brighton in 1976. It became part of the French company L'Oreal Group in July last year but is run independently.

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