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Health correspondent Samantha Poling
"10,000 people are known to be carrying the infection"
 real 28k

Thursday, 1 June, 2000, 07:44 GMT 08:44 UK
Hepatitis C rise continues
Blood bag
The virus affects sufferers' blood
The number of people infected with the blood virus hepatitis C in Scotland has doubled in the past four years.

Health officials have revealed that about 10,000 people have been diagnosed with the infection, which affects the liver and is much more infectious than HIV, the virus which causes Aids.

They said liver units were preparing for a marked increase in demand for their services in the future.

Most of the sufferers are believed to have contracted the condition in the early 1980s through sharing dirty needles.

However, many are haemophiliacs injected with the contaminated blood product Factor VIII.


It's going to be a big problem and I don't just 'guesstimate' this

Hepatologist Prof. Peter Hayes
The infection can also be passed from a sufferer through contact with their blood.

Because many people with the virus show few symptoms for the first two decades after infection, it is only now that the full number of people affected is coming to light.

The increase has led to a rise in the number of people placed on waiting lists for transplants.

And the situation has been predicted to worsen as estimates have shown another 20,000 people in Scotland could unknowingly be carrying the virus.

Surgery
Demand for transplants "will rise"
David Goldberg, deputy director of the Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health, said: "To the end of 1999 we estimate that there are about 10,000 individuals known to be infected with hepatitis C.

"And we also estimate that there are between 20,000 and 30,000 people throughout the country who have yet to be diagnosed."

That theory has prompted hospitals to anticipate a greater demand in the future.

Professor Peter Hayes, a hepatologist at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said: "It's going to be a big problem and I don't just 'guesstimate' this.

"Once you've had this infection between 20 and 30 years, people become ill, they can require liver transplants.

'Devastating' problem

"For example, in America, hepatitis C is the most common indication for liver transplants and we're probably five or 10 years behind them in terms of how long we've had the infection."

Philip Dolan, of the Haemophilia Society, said the condition can have devastating consequences.

He said: "Certainly within the haemophilia population, increasingly as people have gone on and the number of years that they had been receiving the Factor VIII product that had been untreated, these people have now come to a point where they will be developing and experiencing difficulties."

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See also:

29 Jul 99 | Health
Hepatitis C tests win approval
08 Apr 99 | Medical notes
Blood: The risks of infection
01 Nov 99 | Health
Don't panic about Hepatitis C
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