A MONTH after it was revealed that a now retired healthcare worker in G|went inadvertently passed on hepatitis C to two patients, more than 2,400 women have had a blood test for the virus.

Close to 4,000 calls have been received from patients who received a letter offering a blood test, and more than 2,900 appointments have been booked, with specialist clinics continuing across the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area.

Around 5,000 women were contacted by the health board by letter last month after it was revealed on September 11 that a healthcare worker who retired in 2003 was subsequently found to have hepatitis C and was linked to cases in two patients.

The blood-borne virus, discovered in 1989, can cause liver inflammation and if untreated, chronic liver disease and very rarely, cancer.

The worker, unaware they had the virus during their career, does not know how they picked it up. They worked at Caerphilly District Miners' Hospital from May 1984-July 2003.

Around 500 women from other parts of Wales and the UK who also were treated, or may have been treated, by this healthcare worker during the 1970s and 1980s, have also been contacted.

The focus has been on women who underwent major obstetric or gynaecological treatments with which the healthcare worker was involved, including caesarian sections, hysterectomies, and ovary removals.

More than 40 testing clinics are being held.

Health board staff have for months sifted through patients' and hospital records to try to identify the women they needed to contact based on the likelihood of their treatment involving this healthcare worker in potential blood-to-blood contact.

"We would urge all women who have received a letter, but not yet come forward to book a blood test, to do so as soon as possible," said a health board spokesman.

"We understand this is a worrying time for patients who receive a letter, but our staff are available to provide support and advice to help patients get through this and get tested.

"It is important to remember the risk of transmission is low, and testing is being provided as a precautionary measure.”

Further information can be found at www.aneurinbevanhb.wales.nhs.uk and anyone with general concerns can call NHS Direct on 0845 4647.

* For hepatitis C information, visit www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/866/home or the Hepatitis C Trust at www.hepctrust.org.uk