Patients at risk of contracting Hep C from NHS worker
FIVE people in Northern Ireland who may have been treated by a former healthcare worker who tested positive for Hepatitis C are being urged to get blood tests as part of a massive patient recall.
More than 8,000 people across the NHS have been deemed to be at risk even though the worker left clinical practice in 2008 after testing positive.
The employee worked for Lanarkshire health trust in Scotland.
Trust bosses have contacted health boards across the UK after it emerged a patient referred for treatment for hepatitis C in Lanarkshire last year had previously had a surgical procedure carried out by the infected healthcare worker.
The virus can be contracted through contact with the blood of an infected person.
Dr Iain Wallace, the medical director of NHS Lanarkshire, said: "We would like to reassure people that the likelihood of patients acquiring the virus from a surgical procedure carried out by the healthcare worker is low.
"We know that some people receiving the letter may be anxious about what this means for them. We have apologised to patients for any concern that may be caused by this situation.
"We are committed to supporting patients and are ensuring they have every opportunity to get information about hepatitis C, the testing process and the situation in general."
Most people with hepatitis C show no symptoms for years. However, if left untreated, it can lead to potentially life-threatening damage to the liver.
A total of 8,383 NHS patients are to receive letters informing them of the situation and urging them to arrange a blood test.
The vast majority - 7,311 - are in Lanarkshire, with more than 700 across the rest of Scotland, 336 in England, a further 11 in Wales and five in the north.
"We are also putting on additional clinics locally to make it as straightforward and convenient as possible for people to get tested," added Dr Wallace.
The virus can also be passed by sharing unsterilised needles, razors or toothbrushes.
When symptoms do occur, they can be flu-like and cause tiredness and a loss of appetite.