The HSE is urging people at risk of Hepatitis C to order a free Hepatitis C test.

The HSE National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme estimates that up to 3,000 people in Ireland may currently have the blood-borne virus which infects the liver, and if left untreated can cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage, leading to cirrhosis, possible liver failure and cancer – as well as a risk of spreading the disease to others.

Over 4,000 at-home Hepatitis C tests have been ordered and delivered since the HSE home test service went live in early April this year. The discreet, at-home tests are free to order online from as part of the HSE’s Hepatitis C Treatment Programme, which has already treated over 7,000 people. The test involves a finger prick test, with a tiny blood sample dropped into a test tube, which is posted in a pre-paid envelope to a lab for analysis.

Those who require follow up treatment will then be contacted and referred to a participating clinic or hospital. Treatment for Hepatitis C is free, tablets are effective and well-tolerated, with over 95 per cent of people cured in as little as eight to 12 weeks.

The new home tests could help people – unknowingly living with Hepatitis C – to get a life-saving diagnosis and treatment sooner.

The new self-test aim to reach people who may not be engaged with other services such as drug and alcohol support, as well as people who may have potentially been exposed to virus in the past through previous injecting drug use, or they could have come into contact with infected blood through medical procedures, blood transfusions and blood products or equipment used in cosmetic services.

Professor Aiden McCormick, HSE Clinical Lead for the Hepatitis C Programme, said, “one of our biggest challenges is that as patient numbers get smaller, remaining Hepatitis C cases are harder to find and treat.”

“Therefore, it’s vital that we offer a free, easy-to-access home test – especially for those who have been exposed to the virus but are reluctant to come forward. This latest tool is critical to ensuring more people can receive the treatment they need, or peace of mind, at the earliest opportunity. The results of these tests will help contribute to understanding the prevalence of Hepatitis C.”

Marie O’Grady, Programme Lead, HSE National Hepatitis C Programme, said, “by offering this new at-home testing service for Hepatitis C, we are seeing more people come forward to get tested. This is helping us ensure no one slips through the cracks. The quicker you get diagnosed, the quicker you can start life-saving treatments. I strongly urge anyone who feels they may be at risk of Hepatitis C to order your test on today even if you don’t have any symptoms.”

Source: Irish Medical Times