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Students Admit to Ignorance of Hepatitis C

31st October, London, UK: Results from a survey announced today show that half of British students may be exposing themselves to the deadly hepatitis C virus by engaging in ‘risky’ activities, such as sharing banknotes or straws when snorting drugs, getting a tattoo or piercing and sharing razors and toothbrushes.

The survey, conducted at Fresher’s Weeks around the UK (London, Edinburgh, Brighton, Manchester, Nottingham), also found that two in three admit to ignorance about the hepatitis C virus or they have no idea what the symptoms of hepatitis C are. In comparison seven in ten claim to know quite a lot about sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, Chlamydia and herpes.

“For parents who have just sent their children off to University this is worrying news,” said Charles Gore, Chief Executive of leading UK charity, The Hepatitis C Trust. “Young people are putting themselves at risk and they seem completely unaware of the dangers associated with their behaviour.”

Hepatitis C virus is a major cause of acute hepatitis and chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer . Approximately 500,000 people in the UK are thought to living with the disease , six times more than those living with HIV . Of these, 90% don’t even know that they are infected with the disease .

The Hepatitis C Trust, which runs the “What Not To Share” campaign, is calling for greater awareness: “We don’t want to tell students not to have fun at university, just be smart about it. Through our campaign, we want to educate young people about the risk factors of hepatitis C and encourage those who may have engaged in risky behaviour in the past to get tested,” Mr Gore commented.

Below are top tips for students starting their university life on “What Not To Share”:

- Use your own toothbrush or razor – and personalise it so no one else can borrow it
- If you get a tattoo or piercing, go to a reputable outlet and make sure the needle is new out of the packet
- And remember, sharing bank notes or straws to snort substances can transmit the hepatitis C virus

- Ends –

NOTES TO EDITOR:

About “What Not To Share”

“What Not To Share” is a prevention/awareness campaign drawing attention to the dangers of transmitting this dangerous virus. It has a simple message: Don’t share anything that could come into contact with blood, such as razors, toothbrushes, notes/straws for snorting drugs or any of the paraphernalia involved in intravenous drug injecting. Much of the new infection occurs in people in their 20s and members of the music business have been working closely with The Hepatitis C Trust to make the campaign relevant to this group.

Prevention is better than cure. This is especially true in the case of hepatitis C where ‘cure’ is still only possible in about half of those infected.

For more information on the WNTS campaign please contact Gemma.peppe@hepctrust.org.uk

If you are at all concerned that you may have been exposed to hepatitis C or have symptoms that may be attributed to hepatitis C – please call The Hepatitis C Trust HELPLINE on 0845 223 4424 for more information.

About hepatitis C in the UK

Hepatitis C, one of the most common chronic blood-borne infections, is transmitted primarily through blood or blood products. Hepatitis C can be passed by piercing, tattoos, transfusion, injection, razors, sharing toothbrushes, dental work and by sharing notes. Whether it is coke, speed, ketamine or smack, these powders or something they are cut with, can corrode the inside of the nose and cause a nose-bleed. Sharing notes or straws with someone else’s blood on it carries serious risk. You do not even need to see blood on a note for the virus to be transmitted and it can survive outside the body and remain infectious for some time. Hepatitis C is a highly destructive disease. Day to day symptoms vary from general fatigue, to flu-like feelings through to digestive issues, joint pains, mood swings and depression. Hepatitis C can remain undetected for 20 years without showing symptoms but it can still be causing liver damage.

For more information please contact:

Alex Reid, WeberShandwick
Tel: 0207 067 0184
Email: alreid@webershandwick.com

Holly Brafman, WeberShandwick
Tel: 0207 967 0451
Email: hbrafman@webershandwick.com

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