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Body Shop founder Roddick has Hepatitis C
BODY Shop founder Anita Roddick revealed today she is suffering from the disease Hepatitis C.
Body Shop founder Anita Roddick admitted today that she has suffered from the hepatitis C (hep C) virus for the past 35 years.
The Body Shop was founded in 1976 and now serves over 77 million customers. Dame Anita works on the creative team for the company as well as campaigning against sweatshop labour by multinational corporations.
The campaigner said she contracted the virus through a blood transfusion while giving birth to her youngest daughter, Sam, in 1971.
Dame Anita, 64, said she is also suffering cirrhosis of the liver, one of the long-term effects of the disease.
She said: "I have Hepatitis C. It's a bit of a bummer but you groan and move on.
"I had no idea that I had this virus. I was having routine blood tests when it showed up."
She added: "What I can say is that having Hep C means that I live with a sharp sense of my own mortality, which in many ways makes life more vivid and immediate.
"It makes me even more determined to just get on with things."
Dame Anita called for more public money to be spent on raising awareness of the disease, which many people do not realise they are carrying.
She said: "Well, I've always been a bit of a 'whistleblower' and I'm not going to stop now.
"I want to blow the whistle on the fact that Hep C must be taken seriously as a public health challenge and must get the attention and resources that it needs."
People infected with Hepatitis C often show no symptoms initially, but long-term effects can include liver damage and cancer.
Men are more than twice as likely to be infected with the disease, known as the "silent killer", as women.
The virus is transmitted by infected body fluids and people who share needles are particularly at risk.
Unprotected sex as well as sharing toothbrushes and razors also carries a small risk. A routine blood screening programme for the disease was introduced in 1991.
Professor William Rosenberg, of the University of Southampton, said 90% of people carrying the virus have not been diagnosed.
He said one of the problems was that it causes general symptoms including stomach pain, feelings of being unwell and poor concentration.
No vaccine exists to prevent Hepatitis C infection, but treatments are available which are effective in more than half of cases.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the number of adults infected with Hepatitis C in England was around 231,000 in 2003.
It said the number of people living with serious liver disease caused by the virus could more than double by 2015.
An estimated 4,855 people were living with cirrhosis of the liver or serious liver failure in 2005. That figure is expected to rise to 10,090 by 2015.
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