City health teams get on their bikes to raise awareness of hepatitis C for World Hepatitis Day

Leeds’ drug and alcohol service has teamed up with a national charity to use pedal power to raise awareness of the potentially-fatal infection, Hepatitis C.

Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 4:45 am

To mark World Hepatitis Day today, representatives from Forward Leeds have joined forces with volunteers and staff from the Hepatitis C Trust to see how far they can cycle on exercise bikes set up in the city centre, opposite Leeds Minster.

The three-day bike challenge is part of the Hepatitis C Trust’s ‘Around the World’ campaign, which has encouraged people to walk, run, cycle, wheelchair, swim, row or even roller skate the 24,901-mile circumference of the Earth.

The mission helps celebrate the 20th anniversary of the charity as well as the 10th anniversary of World Hepatitis Day, which aims to raise critical awareness of viral hepatitis, a blood-borne virus which predominantly infects cells of the liver.

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Nick Rank, manager of Forward Leeds' Kirkgate Hub (left) and John Fox, of the Hepatitis C Trust, on exercise bikes opposite Leeds Minster, to raise awareness on World Hepatitis Day. They are watched on by Peter Griffiths, a drug and alcohol worker.

The theme for this year is ‘Hepatitis can’t wait’ to signal the urgency of efforts to combat hepatitis C, which is estimated to have infected 118,000 people in the UK - yet over half of those are said to be unaware.

During Forward Leeds’ three-day cycle challenge, blood testers have also been on hand to test anyone for the virus.

Forward Leeds staff have also been available to speak to people about hepatitis C and any other concerns they may have about alcohol or drugs.

Also joining in the cycling have been members of Leeds City Council’s public health team, staff from St James’s Hospital and directors from other local and national charities including BARCA-Leeds and Humankind.

One of those cycling is Nick Rank, assistant director of Forward Leeds. He said: “It is great to be working on this with partners from across Leeds especially the Hepatitis C Trust.

"Our real aim is to get more people tested and treated for hepatitis C."

Coun Salma Arif, Leeds City Council’s executive member for public health and active lifestyles, said: “World Hepatitis Day is a great way of raising awareness of hepatitis C and encouraging people to get tested.

“There are now new treatments available across Leeds – including at any of the Forward Leeds hubs – which are more effective and have far fewer side effects than previous treatments.”

Hepatitis C can only be transmitted by infected blood and can be caught in a number of ways including sharing or reusing needs, syringes, spoons, filters; sharing of drug snorting equipment, sharing crack pipes, tattooing and body piercing or blood transfusions prior to 1992.

If left untreated, 20–25 percent of infected individuals will develop cirrhosis of the liver.

Cirrhosis increases the risk of developing liver cancer, which can be fatal.

Untreated hepatitis C can also cause a range of other symptoms, such as: muscular pain and achy joints, pain in the abdominal and liver area, fatigue, depression, headaches, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, nausea and weight loss.

Hep C can be treated and, in most cases, it can be cured with a simple course of tablets.

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