London Evening Standard (10.18.2013)
England’s Hepatitis C Trust recently launched a campaign in Parliament to warn London residents about the risk of contracting hepatitis C by visiting unlicensed businesses for tattoos or body piercings. Approximately 25 percent of the country’s 160,000 hepatitis C cases reside in London. The number of infected persons who needed hospitalization for the disease has increased four-fold in the past 15 years, but only 3 percent actually have received treatment each year.
The liver disease, which can be fatal if untreated, had the highest prevalence among prisoners, homeless people, and lower income residents. People who shared needles or used “backstreet” tattooists were at higher risk for contracting hepatitis C. “The growing popularity of backyard tattooing and piercing, as well as the use of home tattoo kits by unqualified tattooists, is deeply concerning. Those using these kits or getting tattoos in unregulated premises often don’t understand the risks,” said Charles Gore, the Hepatitis C Trust’s chief executive.
The trust’s campaign encouraged Public Health England and local authorities to raise hepatitis C awareness. “It is a travesty that increasing numbers of patients on our wards are dying from hepatitis C complications when so many of them with early disease can be cured,” remarked Professor Graham Foster, a consultant hepatologist at Barts Health National Health Service Trust.