GPs can help protect against hepatitis B
Hepatitis In the UK, we need to be more aware; test more people and increase future protection, against one of the most common infections in the world, and GPs can help...
Although most people are justifiably aware of the risks of HIV, the risks of hepatitis B, which is 50-100 times more infectious, remain largely unknown.
"Many deaths could be prevented with services accessed via your GP."
In the UK, liver is the only cause of death that is inexorably rising, and 1 in 350 people are thought to be infected with chronic hepatitis B, a key contributor to these figures. There are many more at risk, with numbers even higher in our cities. This is a reflection of a few things, including the positive, changing diversity of the UK population; what we do for aesthetics and appearance (e.g. tattooing) or leisure (e.g. travel), and finally what physical risks we are exposured to in the workplace.
The tragedy is, that many of these deaths could be prevented through better awareness, testing, preventative vaccination and treatment (if the disease is already active). Surprisingly, much of these are available through your NHS Family Doctor.
Be aware, get tested
People that should be tested include those who:
- Need blood or blood products, those on dialysis or who have had a transplant
- Have been in prison
- Inject drugs
- Live with and/or have sexual contact with people with hepatitis B
- Have (or have had) several sexual partners
- Are healthcare workers or have an occupation where they are in contact with blood (such as hairdressers who use and open blade)
- Travel to, and/or are born in parts of the world where hepatitis B is common (most infections worldwide are in the early years of life)
- Are unaware of their birth ethnicity.
If you feel you may be at risk, discuss it with your GP. Testing is quite simple and readily available through your GP or, often through your workplace.
Get immunised or treated
Immunisation against hepatitis B is the key. The UK has been slow to improve levels of immunisation compared to our peers in Europe and comparable economic nations. However, there have been some positive changes recently.
"There has been an effective and safe hepatitis B vaccine since 1982."
All children born from April 2017 will have hepatitis B scheduled into their routine childhood immunisations. Yet, this welcome change will still not help the large swathes of the population already at risk of hepatitis B, or those who acquired the infection during childhood. Overall coverage needs to increase; at the very least, there needs to be a “catch up” programme.
Whilst preventative vaccination is always preferable, treatment for some of those whom have been chronically infected with hepatitis B, is also still available and accessible.
If you aren’t aware or tested, you can’t be protected or treated effectively.
Find out more
For expert advice, call The Hepatitis B Positive Trust:
0800 206 1899