A VIRUS which is spreading rapidly across East Lancashire was today described as a hidden timebomb waiting to explode.

Liz Lyons has spoken out about the dangers of the potentially fatal liver disease hepatitis C after spending 11 years as a probation worker in Lancashire. She says it is vital that awareness is raised into its dangers.

She said: "Hepatitis C is a virulent disease and there are many people who probably have no idea that they are carrying it."

The incurable virus, which has also been described as a "sleeping giant", is transferred through the blood and is thought to be carried by 90 per cent of intravenous drug users.

Until two and a half years ago it was known as hepatitis NANB (not A not B) until it became scientifically recognised as hepatitis C. It is easily caught by the sharing of needles, syringes, other drugs equipment, via blood transfusions and organ transplants.

Some people develop liver cancer about 25 to 30 years after the original infection.

A simple blood test arranged through GPs can test for the virus although it is difficult to distinguish between acute and chronic hepatitis C.

Liz, who gathered knowledge about hepatitis C during her work as a probation officer, said: "This is not a virus created by drug abusers. They are just the people most at risk.

"I don't want people to solely associate the virus with drug abusers which has happened with other conditions.

"It is a very clever virus and, although I don't want to worry people unnecessarily, awareness needs raising about its danger."

Only one in 10 people who test positive for hepatitis C will need immediate treatment. The remainder are monitored at intervals, often for several years.

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