A life-threatening virus which has thrived in prisons for decades has been eliminated from three of the area’s jails.

Thanks to a team of health professionals at the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, HMPs Preston, Wymott and Kirkham are now free of Hepatitis C.

More than 2,500 prisoners across South Lancashire and Cumbria were tested as part of a project targeted at eliminating the virus, with 159 people successfully treated after clinics were set up.

The prisons were pinpointed for the project as they were found to have the highest cases of the virus in the area. 

Hepatitis C, when left untreated can be fatal and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has pledged that the UK will be the first in the world to eliminate Hepatitis C by 2025 - five years ahead of a global target set by the World Health Organisation.   

Clinical lead for the programme, Dr Ioannis Gkikas, said: “I am extremely proud of what has been achieved across Lancashire and South Cumbria in such a short time.

"Our team were the first in the northwest to have a set plan in place to tackle this challenge.  

“Hepatitis C, whilst serious, is easily treatable with antiviral medication. New medication brought into use in 2015 is more than 90 per cent successful in treating the Hepatitis C virus. 

“The project has three main areas of focus – to encourage testing, to encourage and deliver treatment and finally, to educate.

"Whether an individual has tested positive for the virus or not, we deliver an education programme to raise awareness of the symptoms, the benefits of treatment and how to avoid transmission.  

“I want to thank all the team members but also the prisons who were eager to participate in the project – allowing us to implement the project extremely quickly.” 

The news comes just as the team celebrated World Hepatitis Day this week to raise awareness of the disease.

You can find out more online at www.elht.nhs.uk or follow the activity on ELHT’s social media accounts following the hashtag #Lschepcday