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Startling rise in Inverclyde cases of hepatitis C

New figures show a dramatic rise in the number of people in Inverclyde being diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease.

Statistics released to the Telegraph under Freedom of Information laws reveal a startling 60 per cent rise in the number of cases of hepatitis C in the area between 2012 and last year. The biggest rise was in the 55-64 age group, with 13 people diagnosed last year compared to just two in 2012.

The disease, which can increase the risk of cancer if untreated and can also lead to liver failure, was also prevalent in the 65 and over age category — with 14 people diagnosed in 2013 compared to just three in 2012.

Meanwhile, in the first three months of this year, 37 people were diagnosed with the condition — including two youngsters under the age of 16. A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde says more cases are being diagnosed due to an increased awareness amongst health experts.

She said: “NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have been implementing the national hepatitis C action plan since this was introduced by the Scottish Government in 2006.

“The aims are to reduce the number of undiagnosed infections and increase the number of people cured of hepatitis C through treatment.

“Improved awareness of hepatitis C among the public and healthcare professionals has led to an increase in the number of people being tested for this blood-borne virus, especially at addiction services and GPs.”

The spokeswoman also said that high-tech testing methods could be another reason for the rise in the number of people being diagnosed in GP practices and addiction services in the area.

She said: “We have introduced new and improved methods of testing for hepatitis C, such as finger-prick tests, which make the process more accessible for staff and patients.

“As a result, people who have been at risk of infection are more likely to accept the offer of a test or indeed request one.”

The latest NHS statistics also reveal that there has been a 21 per cent rise of hepatitis C cases in people aged between 45 and 54, with 23 cases in 2012 compared to 28 in 2013 — while there has been a 40 per cent rise in cases affecting the 35-44 age group.

A total of 40 people aged between 25-34 were diagnosed last year while in the 16-24 age group, five people had the disease.

The virus is particularly concentrated in the blood of an infected person and is usually transmitted through blood-to-blood contact such as sharing razors or toothbrushes or sharing unsterilised needles.

Source: Greenock Telegraph