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WALES: 700 calls to helpline in dental scare; Hundreds of appointments made for tests.

Byline: By ROLAND HUGHES

A HELPLINE for concerned former patients of a dentist diagnosed with hepatitis C received more than 700 calls in its first day.

The helpline opened for business on Wednesday as some 5,000 patients were sent letters inviting them for tests.

Health bosses were immediately inundated with calls - 715 on Wednesday alone.

News that the Gwynedd dentist was infected with the rare hepatitis C virus first broke on May 13.

But National Public Health Service for Wales (NPHS) bosses were first informed of the worker's diagnosis in October last year.

Earlier this week it emerged ex-patients will be offered tests for HIV and hepatitis B - as well as hepatitis C.

Since then public health staff have worked around the clock to trace 5,000 people from the dentist's records -dating back almost 30 years.

Thousands of people formerly on the dentist's books started receiving letters on Wednesday.

All will be offered the chance of blood tests in one of 47 special clinics to screen for hepatitis B and C and for HIV.

Four hundred appointments have already been made in the two days since the letters were first sent out - with five of the 47 clinics already fully-booked.

They will run from Monday, June 5, to Monday, July 17.

Regional director for the National Public Health Service for Wales Dr Sandra Payne said: "Our lines are very busy and I am very grateful to patients for the understanding they are showing.

"People are understandably concerned and I would like to emphasise that the risk of getting hepatitis C, hepatitis B or HIV is very small indeed."

An investigation was also launched into cleanliness and hygiene concerns at the dentist's practice.

Health bosses asked the Healthcare Inspectorate for Wales to investigate in case procedures were broken.

The move came after it emerged questions about the healthcare worker's "infection control procedures" were raised with health authorities in the past.

Hepatitis C causes swelling or inflammation of the liver. Symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, nausea, flu-like symptoms, problems concentrating, abdominal pain and jaundice.

It is estimated around 15-20% of cases clear naturally within the first six months of infection.

rolandhughes@dailypost.co.uk
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 2, 2006
Words:364
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