Hepatitis C: 'Every day was painful'

Sultan Mahmood with his wife Shakila Sultan Mahmood fought Hepatitis C with the support of his wife Shakila

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Sultan Mahmood was born in Pakistan and came to live in Bradford in 1993. He was married and had two healthy children, but he started to feel ill in 2001.

He had flu-like symptoms, suffered from nausea, started losing weight and then had jaundice.

"I did not know what was happening to me. Every week another new problem started and I was getting worried."

After months of tests he was diagnosed as having hepatitis C.

"When they told me what was wrong I turned to my wife, but we both had no idea of this condition and that I could eventually die if I did not get treatment."

'Serious condition'

Sulleman Moreea is a consultant hepatologist with the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

He estimates that around two-thirds of people born in South Asia and living in Bradford do not know they have the condition. That's currently around 2,000 people in Bradford.

Start Quote

The fact that we are now starting to see South Asians coming to our clinics in greater numbers with the late stages of Hepatitis C is very worrying”

End Quote Dr Sulleman Moreea Consultant Heptologist

He also believes that large numbers of Asian people in other parts of the country are walking around not knowing they may have the disease.

"Hepatitis C is a very serious condition. It attacks the liver and causes cirrhosis, liver failure, cancer and even death."

Dr Moreea says he is trying to convince the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) to set up a pilot project in Bradford, London and Cambridge, to screen people born in high risk areas such as Pakistan, India and Africa.

"We know this will be good because we can prevent people from becoming seriously ill with this condition."

"The longer you leave it the harder it is to cure, and for some that cure is not certain. The success rate is currently around 60 to 70%."

'Amazing support'

Mr Mahmood had to endure a 48-week programme to try and clear his body of the hepatitis C virus.

"I had to take six tablets a day and weekly injections and I was in pain for most of that time. I only came through it because of my wife's amazing support."

Mr Mahmood's wife Shakila says taking such strong medication meant her husband suffered many side effects.

"The minute he'd have his drugs he would start getting a fever. For him every day was a painful day, every day brought a new symptom."

"He was continually sick and he would have no appetite. He was losing his hair, and where he was being injected, his skin turned black as if it was burnt."

Mr Mahmood finally beat his battle with hepatitis C. His doctors say he is now on the road to recovery, with his body showing no signs of the disease returning.

Holiday risks

But it's not only those born in South Asia and Africa who are at risk.

Soma Khan, who is from Bradford, has just returned from a holiday in Pakistan. Whilst there she fell ill and was given an injection by a doctor. She is now worried that the needle used may not have been sterilised properly.

"In Pakistan when you are ill the first thing a doctor will do is give you an injection. I was given mine through my clothing, and a few hours later I suddenly thought, 'Oh my God, what have I done'."

Ms Khan was aware that hepatitis C could be contracted from needles, and was unsure the doctor's equipment had been sterilised.

The first thing she did on returning home was to get a blood test. She is now eagerly awaiting those results.

"I am sure I will be ok, but you never know."

Simple blood test

Dr Moreea says having a simple blood test is all you need and urges everyone who was born in South Asia to go to their GP and ask for one to be carried out.

"The most serious effects of hepatitis C only start to show after 20 to 30 years from infection. So the fact that we are now starting to see South Asians coming to our clinics in greater numbers with the late stages of hepatitis C is very worrying."

"Once the liver is badly scarred by this condition, you may need a transplant or you could get liver cancer. In these cases there's not a lot we can then do to help. But if it's diagnosed early enough then you could have a good outcome."

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