May 7, 2012
Hepatitis C diagnoses in the Lothians hit a record high last year, though health experts say this indicates that government-led awareness and testing efforts are effective.
"We welcome the increase, because it shows that the action plan is working," said Petra Wright, Scottish officer for the Hepatitis C Trust.
Wright noted that in 2009, testing was introduced at drug outreach facilities. And in 2011, the Scottish government implemented the Sexual Health and Blood-Borne Viruses Framework. Last summer, posters went up in pubs and clubs across the Capital warning of hepatitis C, explaining how the disease is transmitted, and promoting support groups.
In 2011, 333 hepatitis C infections were diagnosed, up from 276 in 2010 and 202 in 2009. Last year's diagnoses represent a two-fold increase over a decade ago.
Some 3,700 people in the Lothians are known to be infected with hepatitis C, but Wright said the true figure is likely two times as high. The virus can remain symptomless for up to a decade, while early symptoms -- including depression, fatigue, skin problems, insomnia, digestive issues, and pain -- are often mistaken for other conditions. The greatest risk factor for infection is injecting drug use, though steroid users and those who have received tattoos from unlicensed providers or abroad also are at risk.