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Leon Wylie, Lead Officer of Hepatitis Scotland said, ”It is very unfortunate that there has been potential healthcare worker related Hepatitis C transmissions in a surgical setting in Lanarkshire. It is understandable many patients who are contacted to come forward for testing will be very worried by this as, although the risk is low, some transmissions from worker to patients have probably occurred. The key point we want to highlight for those affected is that Hepatitis C is now easily treatable and that there is an over 90% cure rate in most cases. To get treated first you need to know if you have the virus so accepting the offer of a test is vitally important.
People will obviously be very upset to receive a letter asking them to get a test and it is highly likely they will be concerned about not only themselves but also any family members they may have put at risk. We want to reassure people Hepatitis C is not transmitted by normal daily activities or contact with others, such as sharing food or kissing. It is only when there is potential blood to blood contact, such as sharing razors, that the possibility of passing it to others exists. If anyone is concerned and wants to find out more about the virus, treatment or living with the illness, please visit our website at www.hepatitisscotlandc.org.uk.
There are a variety of risk factors for Hepatitis C transmission, both personal and occupation related. Working in an exposure prone area such as invasive surgery gives a higher risk of potential transmission, from worker to patient or vice versa. With an estimated 36,700 people with chronic Hepatitis C in Scotland, with just under half not knowing they have the virus, the underlying population prevalence suggests this issue should be addressed. There appears to be a case for regular in-work BBV testing of workers who perform the most exposure prone procedures as even with the best infection control unknowing exposure can occur when using fine and very sharp instruments. With the highly effective treatments now available this should not be detrimental to a healthcare worker’s continuing employment after successful treatment.”
Notes to editors
Lead Officer, Leon Wylie