Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Nannying fussbucket of the day: Professor Dame Sally Davies and Hepatitis


I was tempted to use other words than nannying fussbucket to describe this Lady's deception upon the newspapers and airwaves today. I awoke to a brief reference in the 6am news summary on Classic FM and then heard or read her choice words off and on through the rest of the day.

My report is a stark reminder of the preventable damage that eating too much and drinking too much alcohol can do.

So says Dame Sally before moving into the predictable references to minimum pricing for alcohol and the general evils of drinking. At no point did she - or anyone interviewing her - ever mention the tricksy truths about drinking: that we're doing a lot less of it these days and that young people especially are becoming more abstemious.

Instead we're led to believe that the "rising tide" of liver disease is due to our bad habits rather than anything else. We even get a handy little graph in some reports - doubtless lifted from Dame Sally's report. Now, given that we know levels of alcohol consumption have fallen in the past ten years it seems something of a stretch to lay the increase in liver disease over that time at the door of boozing.

And obesity - another cause of liver problems - has stabilised and may even be declining. So what's the problem. Here's a clue:

As the report points out - almost in passing amidst the temperance propaganda:

Undiagnosed hepatitis B and C are also major causes of liver diseases.

 Ah, now we're getting somewhere - back in 2004:

Hepatitis C is often referred to as the ‘silent epidemic’. Many of those who have the infection show no symptoms over a long period. Estimates indicate that around 200,000 people in England are chronically infected with hepatitis C – yet only 38,000 diagnoses have been reported. If left untreated, hepatitis C can cause serious liver disease in some patients, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
And for Hepatitis B:

We estimate that there are now more than 325,000 people in the UK with chronic HBV infection. Allowing for factors such as under-reporting, the figure may be even higher.

Perhaps - rather than booze and burgers, this 'silent epidemic' has rather more to do with the rise in cases of liver disease?

Update: Seems that the liver chap at Bradford Royal Infirmary blames the rise on Hepatitis too:

There is a silent disease out there – hepatitis B and C,” he said. “When I started work in Bradford in 2004 I had 100 patients with hepatitis B and 150 patients with hepatitis C on our books. Today there are 650 patients with hepatitis B and 850 patients with hepatitis C. We keep treating large numbers of patients every year.”



Ivan D said...

Not to mention the fact that liver deaths stabilized around 2003 making her 20% rise in 10 years a tad disingenuous.

The MSM seems to have missed this point although the BBC did provide a helpful graph alongside the usual crap from it's mates at Alcohol Concern.

Steve Wintersgill said...

Pinched some of that and blurted it out on FB.
I already have a complaint in with the BBC about the manner it which they covered this 'story', although doubt I will ghet anything approaching a positive response.

To be fair, my complaints against Panorama's OAP drinking program were taken seriously by the deputy editor, who had the program pulled from iPlayer and is getting Joan Bakewell back in to re-record the most inaccurate bits, so you never know.

SadButMadLad said...

The doctor might be seeing more patients for two reasons. 1) Bigger and larger hospitals meaning more seen by a single department. 2) More illegal drug taking meaning sharing needles etc.

Both solved quite easily. 1) Do proper stats. 2) Make drug taking legal so that consumers of drugs can get safe equipment.

Simon Cooke said...

@SBML There has been an active campaign over a decade to track HepC - the biggest driver is immigration rather than IVDU (which is more of an issue is HepB). More to the point the numbers of injecting drug users has fallen over the past ten years too.

Which I guess leaves unprotected sex....