Health Protection Agency HPA, UK confirms that a review of patients’ case notes in hospitals across England and Scotland has been carried out.
The review was an extension of two previous patient notification exercises (lookbacks) that were triggered by the discovery that two separate health care workers (HCWs) were infected with Hepatitis C and had transmitted the disease to one of their patients.
The two previous NHS lookbacks undertaken in 2005 identified five patients in total who had developed hepatitis C probably as a result of transmission of the infection from the HCWs. These were patients who underwent the most invasive procedures carried out by these healthcare workers.
In view of these transmissions, the UK Advisory Panel for Health Care Workers Infected with Blood-borne Viruses ( UKAP) advised the NHS Trusts that the lookbacks should be extended to include patients who underwent all other invasive procedures as well. Trusts are notifying these patients.
Patients who are notified will have the opportunity to contact a helpline and to receive counselling and a hepatitis C test. The risk of infection is very small and the screening is being offered by the NHS as a precautionary measure.
Hepatitis C virus is a virus which can lead to inflammation of the liver. In most cases, the virus is asymptomatic, that is, most infected people do not realise they have the infection and suffer no noticeable symptoms. However, in other people, symptoms can include feeling sick and suffering abdominal pain and jaundice. The infection can cause serious liver disease, and, very rarely, primary cancer of the liver.
An infected healthcare worker might injure themselves accidentally during treatment, for example by piercing their skin on sharp instruments. If the patient’s open tissues were exposed to the infected healthcare worker’s blood, it is possible that infection could be transmitted.
Hepatitis C virus is mainly transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, and more rarely through sexual intercourse. The virus cannot be transmitted through social contact, kissing or sharing food and drink.
In recent years increasingly effective treatments for hepatitis C have become available. In January 2004 the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended a combination of pegylated interferon alpha and ribavirin for the treatment of patients with severe hepatitis C. Overall this treatment is successful in clearing the infection in up to 55% of patients. In patients with genotypes 2 and 3 evidence is accumulating that combination therapy can lead to upwards of 80% of people clearing the virus.
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Sub-editorHepatitis C :: Hepatitis C lookbacks – HPA, UK
by Sub-editor ( Author at Spirit India )
Posted on June 9th, 2007 at 4:00 am.
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