Change Grow Live – health and social care charity

Hepatitis B and C: are you at risk? 

Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are both blood borne viruses (BBVs). Along with HIV they are the most common BBVs in the UK. A BBV is a virus carried in the blood that someone else can contract through their blood or other bodily fluids.
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How can you contract a BBV like hepatitis B or C?

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    Sharing needles or drug paraphernalia 

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    Tattooing or piercing with equipment that isn't properly sterilised

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    Sharing toothbrushes, razors or hair clippers - hep C can live on them for 4 days

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    Rough or anal sex with a person who is infected - can lead to skin tearing

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    Inadequately sterilised medical or dental equipment eg. when travelling abroad 

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    Needle stick injuries

Are you at risk of having a BBV? It’s time to get tested
All Change Grow Live service users at risk of having contracted hepatitis B or C or HIV have access to BBV testing. If you are not in treatment but access one of our needle exchange services, we can test you there. Testing is completed using the Dry Blood Spot Test method. The blood sample is obtained by pricking the finger and filter collection paper is spotted with a blood sample. If you test positive for any BBV we will provide support and refer you for specialist treatment.

If you are worried about hepatitis please speak to your key worker who will be able to provide support and advice. If you are not a Change Grow Live service user you can usually get tested for hepatitis B and C via your GP or sexual health clinic.
two people talking at needle exchange
All Change Grow Live service users at risk of having contracted hepatitis B or C or HIV have access to BBV testing.
"What I would say to anyone who hasn't been tested is 'go for it'! It’s better to know early and it doesn't hurt."

Lisa - now hep C free. Click here to read her story.
What are the links between sharing needles and hepatitis?
Nearly 90% of cases of hepatitis C in the UK involve people who inject or have injected drugs, including anabolic steroids.

If other equipment, such as spoons or pipes, have been in contact with infected blood, it is also possible to contract hepatitis C through sharing that equipment. The hepatitis C virus can survive for 63 days inside a syringe and it is 6 times more likely to be transmitted than HIV.

Hepatitis B can be contracted through sharing needles and it is very infectious. Hep B can be 50-100 times more infectious than HIV. The hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body for up to a week, so it is also possible to contract hep B from dried blood.
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More information about hepatitis B and C

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is caused by a viral infection contracted by coming into contact with infected blood, semen, or other body fluids.

You can be vaccinated against hepatitis B and this is available at Change Grow Live for all service users or from your local GP if you are in an ‘at risk’ category.

As the NHS Choices website explains, “in the UK, vaccination against hepatitis B is recommended for people in high-risk groups, such as healthcare workers, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, and people travelling to parts of the world where the infection is more common.”

Symptoms

Often there are no symptoms or mild flu-like symptoms and the virus can disappear without the person noticing.

Some people experience more severe symptoms and have to go to hospital; these symptoms can include jaundice and diarrhoea.

Is there a cure for hepatitis B?

If you find out that you have hepatitis B early, you can usually have treatment to relieve the symptoms while your body fights the infection.

If you have had hepatitis B for longer than 6 months, treatment can control the virus and reduce the risk of liver damage.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is the most common type of viral hepatitis in the UK. It's usually contracted when blood comes into contact with infected blood, such as through sharing needles.

Watch our video to find out more about testing and treatment for hep C:

 

There is no vaccination to prevent you catching hep C.

Symptoms

People that contract hepatitis C have mild or no symptoms and those that do only have them for a few weeks (including fever, fatigue, decreased appetite, nausea or vomiting).

Sometimes people only discover they have hepatitis C after decades of having little or no symptoms and by then they may have developed chronic hepatitis (liver damage). Symptoms of chronic hepatitis include: fatigue, jaundice, abdominal pain, joint and muscle ache, itching, and memory or concentration problems. If not treated the liver may stop functioning properly and in a small number of cases it can lead to liver cancer.

Is there a cure for hepatitis C?

20% of people who contract the virus will clear it themselves within 6 months. For those that do not there is a new treatment available in the UK.

Using the current medicines, more than 90% of people with hepatitis C can be cured and there are little to no side effects. 

If you are using substances such as drugs or alcohol you can still have treatment for hep C. The regime is generally one tablet per day and you can be treated in 8-12 weeks. The treatment that was used a few years ago was called interferon and consisted of injections. This treatment was longer (6-12 months) and generally made people feel very unwell. The new treatment options are more effective and have fewer side effects.

We are working with NHS Trusts to bring hep C treatment in-house to our services – speak to a member of the team at your local service to find out more.

It is still possible to contract hep C again once you have received treatment, so it’s important to take steps to prevent yourself becoming infected again.

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