Story of hope for unlucky sharps injury victims

Wednesday January 25 2017

For people unlucky enough to be infected with a blood-borne virus such as hepatitis C following an unfortunate sharps injury, there are now a wide variety of drugs available to make sure this doesn't have to mean a death sentence. But is there a chance they can ever be cured of the infection?

Local UK newspaper, Eastern Daily Press, has reported on a story of hope for needle injury victims, after Michelle Tolley, a 51-year-old woman infected with hepatitis C following a hospital blood contamination error in 1987, has been given the all-clear from the disease.

Ms. Tolley was diagnosed with the condition after receiving a transfusion of contaminated blood while giving birth and has since been on medication to lower her risk of developing other life-threatening illnesses such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Speaking to the Eastern Daily Press, Ms. Tolley explained: "I got a call from the liver nurse to tell me [hepatitis C] is now basically undetected in my bloodstream.

"Now what happens is my medication finishes in about nine to ten weeks, and six months from then there is a factor of time when it can come back."

However, she added: "The good news is that it is undetected. It is still going to be a long time, but I am very hopeful."

Ms. Tolley is currently supporting a campaign to encourage people who may also have received a blood transfusion in the country prior to the early 1990s to be tested for hepatitis C. Little was known about the potential effects of the cross contamination of infected blood at this time, meaning many more people may be unknowingly living with the disease.

As a result, they could be putting the health of any healthcare workers that administer injections to them at risk of infection should a needlestick injury occur.

People who had an unsterile tattoo or piercing before the early 1990s, injected drugs or have undergone dental treatment abroad are also being encouraged to get tested for hepatitis C, as unsafe sharps hygiene practices may have occurred in these settings too, increasing people's risk of blood-borne infection as a result.