Rise in requests for hepatitis C tests amid concern over infected blood scandal

Campaigners, including many who are personally infected and affected by infected blood, hold placards as they gather in Westminster, London, calling for compensation for victims to be authorised by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Campaigners affected by the infected blood scandal, hold placards as they gather in London calling for compensations for victims

There has been a sharp rise in the number of people getting tested for Hepatitis C amid concern over the infected blood scandal, according to a charity.

The surge has been particularly pronounced in the run-up to the publication of the final report on the scandal.

The Hepatitis C Trust says 12,800 people asked the NHS for home-testing kits in little more than a week. That compares with just 2,300 for the whole of last month, according to figures the charity shared with the BBC.

There were as many as 27,000 cases of Hepatitis C in people given transfusions with infected blood up until 1991. A BBC analysis suggests there may be 1,700 undiagnosed further cases of the disease because of infected blood.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus which, left untreated, can cause liver cancer and liver failure. It usually displays no symptoms until the virus damages the liver enough to cause liver disease.

Other associated symptoms include fatigue and difficulty concentrating, and Hepatitis C is also linked to cardiovascular disease, mental health issues, kidney disease and musculoskeletal pain. Until recently the stigma attached to Hepatitis C - which can be spread by sharing needles - meant many people were unwilling to come forward and be tested for the virus.

But the virus is preventable, treatable and, for most people, curable. Effective antiviral drugs that have come onto the market in recent years can now cure more than 95 per cent of people in just a few months.

There has been a gradual decline in the total number of cases in recent years. Government figures show approximately 150,000 people in England had hepatitis C in 2011, falling to about 80,000 just over a decade later.