Home Health ‘Thousands’ could have been infected by contaminated blood…and they STILL don’t know it. So what are the hidden signs to look out for and how to get tested?

‘Thousands’ could have been infected by contaminated blood…and they STILL don’t know it. So what are the hidden signs to look out for and how to get tested?

0 comment
Protesters pictured holding banners in London in July 2023 as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was questioned by the Infected Blood Inquiry.

Thousands of Britons are known to have died or suffered due to the infected blood scandal, dubbed the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

But hundreds more, mostly women, are believed to be living unknowingly with the consequences of the scandal to this day.

Some infected with hepatitis C as a result of receiving contaminated blood only find out they were infected after the virus has devastated their livers, leaving them with lifelong damage.

Charities have warned that, on average, they are helping two people each month who have just found out they were infected decades ago.

In the 1970s and 1980s, thousands of men, women and children received blood products that were unknowingly contaminated with HIV or/or hepatitis C.

Protesters pictured holding banners in London in July 2023 as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was questioned by the Infected Blood Inquiry.

These tainted donations came from American prisoners, sex workers and drug addicts, who were paid to donate their blood to the product manufacturers.

Around 30,000 patients in Britain are known to have received unsafe blood products in the 1970s and 1980s, potentially exposing them to hepatitis C and HIV.

It is believed that around 3,000 people have died as a result since then, although the real number could be higher.

Patients offered the products often suffered from hemophilia or other bleeding disorders, which meant they required regular transfusions.

Others received them during surgery, either for routine planned operations or emergency procedures, as well as childbirth.

Victims have faced years of dismissal from ministers and the NHS for their symptoms, as well as stigma from their communities for having HIV.

Adding to the scandal was the lack of follow-up care in monitoring people who had been infected.

Survivors and families of those killed have been involved in a 40-year fight for compensation and an apology from the government for the way they were treated.

But another 1,750 people, mostly women, are believed to still be living with hepatitis C unknowingly after being infected with contaminated blood products decades earlier.

This figure was obtained by a BBC investigationexamining documents submitted to the official Infected Blood Inquiry.

Other estimates of the unknown number are higher, with some charities saying that “thousands” may have been infected in this way.

There are also cases where women passed hepatitis C to their children while they were developing in the womb.

About 64 percent, the majority of the victims, are believed to be women, based on known numbers of patients who received contaminated blood products.

One of the most damning aspects of the scandal is the general failure by the Government and the NHS to try to trace potentially infected people for years.

Efforts to trace patients did not really begin until 1995. This was later than other countries similarly affected by contaminated products.

In addition to starting later, the UK effort was piecemeal. It was not led at a national level and was instead left to individual NHS organizations to trace potentially infected patients.

This led to a postcode lottery in which patients were told they had not only been infected but were also offered testing and treatment.

The end result is that some patients have endured years of unexplained hepatitis C problems and are only now finding out they have the disease.

Charity, The Hep C Trust, which is dedicated to eliminating hepatitis C in the UK by 2030, says that on average around two people a month call its helpline after receiving a diagnosis resulting from a blood transfusion. blood 30 years ago.

Tragically, this often occurs in circumstances where a patient has suffered severe liver damage due to the infection.

Vanessa Hebditch, director of communications and policy at another charity, The British Liver Trust, said people infected in this way, like many victims of the infected blood scandal, deserve better.

“The people affected by this tragedy deserve not only to know the truth about exactly what happened and the degree of negligence that occurred, but also to receive appropriate compensation,” he said.

Hepatitis C is a virus that can infect the liver and cause life-limiting damage to the organ.

People primarily become infected with hepatitis C through exposure to contaminated blood.

This usually occurs from sharing needles during drug use, as well as from improperly cleaning equipment in surgery and tattoo parlors.

However, blood transfusions are another way to become infected, although now rare thanks to screening.

There is also a lower risk of contracting hepatitis C through sexual contact.

If hepatitis C is left untreated, it can cause serious and life-threatening liver damage for many years.

A timeline of the tainted blood scandal that began in the early 1970s

1972: The NHS begins importing large batches of factor VIII products from the United States to help hemophiliacs’ blood clot.

1974: Some researchers warn that factor VIII could be contaminated and spread hepatitis.

Late 1970s: Patients are still given factor VIII, and much of the plasma used to make the product comes from donors such as prisoners, drug addicts and prostitutes.

1983: The governments of both the United Kingdom and the United States are told that AIDS has spread through blood products.

Mid-1980s: By then, blood products, such as factor VIII, were being heat-treated to kill viruses, but thousands of patients had already been infected.

1991: Blood products imported from the U.S. are withdrawn from use. The government provides ex-gratia payments to hemophiliac victims who threaten to sue.

2007: Privately funded investigation into scandal started by Lord Archer of Sandwell, but does not gain official status and relies on donations.

2008: The Penrose investigation was launched, but victims claim the seven-year investigation was a “cover-up.”

2017: Independent inquiry into tainted blood scandal announced by Prime Minister Theresa May.

April 2019: The Infected Blood Inquiry begins to hear evidence.

Only about one in three out of four patients develop early signs of hepatitis C infection in the weeks after infection.

These symptoms include high temperature, fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach pain, as well as nausea and vomiting.

However, most patients do not have these symptoms and problems only appear many years after infection.

Symptoms of chronic hepatitis C vary widely, but include chronic fatigue, joint and muscle pain, nausea, brain fog, mood swings and depression, indigestion or bloating, itchy skin, and abdominal pain.

Long-term untreated hepatitis C infection also frequently causes cirrhosis, severe scarring of the liver.

Signs of cirrhosis may include jaundice, vomiting blood, dark stools, and fluid buildup in the legs or abdomen.

Part of the tragedy of people becoming infected without knowing it is that hepatitis C can now be easily treated with tablets taken for eight to 12 weeks.

Getting a diagnosis has often been a challenge for patients, particularly women, infected by a blood product or transfusion.

Female victims have shared stories of how doctors dismissed hepatitis C symptoms as stress or attributed them to another problem such as menopause.

NHS advice states that people who received a blood transfusion or blood product before September 1991 have a small chance of having been infected with hepatitis C.

After this date, the risk of blood products and transfusions is considered extremely low, as this was when the NHS began screening donations for the hepatitis C virus.

In practice, most patients only learn that they may have been victims after they are finally tested for hepatitis C.

This is often done after the symptoms and damage caused by the disease become impossible for doctors to rule out.

An analysis of a patient’s medical records may reveal the possibility that they were infected by a contaminated blood product or transfusion.

People who think they may have hepatitis C England and Welsh You can request a free NHS test kit for the virus which arrives in the post.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland people can access these tests through their GP.

You may also like