The National Public Health Service for Wales (NPHS) has announced that the actual risk of anyone contacting Hepatitis C was very rare after a caseworker was apparently diagnosed with the disease in a dental surgery. Around 5,500 patients in Gwynedd are to be screened for the virus.
"The team has assessed the risk to patients and is preparing a comprehensive communications strategy to contact patients who have been treated by the healthcare worker," a statement released by the NPHS said. "The risk of patients contacting hepatitis C is very small and the contact programme is being taken on a precautionary basis."
Hepatitis C is the infection or inflammation of the liver and is caused by a blood-borne virus. The disease is very contagious and spreads when blood of an infected person enters into the bloodstream of another. Some of the symptoms of the disease are fatigue, weight loss, nausea, 'flu-like symptoms, problems concentrating, abdominal pain and jaundice.
"The danger is certainly very slight, but assuming this is just an infected worker, there's no reason why in a dental surgery their blood should be spilt onto your blood and get into your system," said Charles Gore, chief executive of the Hepatitis C Trust. "Nonetheless, it's a very sensible precaution to screen everyone".
He added that even if anyone was infected there was adequate treatment available. "In a worst case scenario, if someone was infected, there is now very effective treatment available, particularly effective if the diagnosis is early and is caught in the first six months," he said. "Although this is a very serious disease, there's a lot that can be done about it and in this case, the risk is going to be very small".