Hepatitis B a growing problem in UK prisons

Senior Reporter

Hepatitis B, the virus which spreads through the sharing of needles to inject drugs and unprotected sex, is on the rise in England’s jails, official figures have revealed.

In a written answer to a parliamentary question, Health Minister Norman Lamb said the number of prisoners diagnosed with chronic forms of the virus has risen from just 22 in 2010 to 109 in 2013.

The figures, compiled by Public Health England (PHE), also show that over the same period the number of vaccinations against the virus in jails has fallen, despite the prison population increasing to a record 85,000. In 2010/11, 109,827 doses of the vaccine were administered, but this fell to 74,785 in 2012/13.

Hepatitis B is a blood-borne virus which causes inflammation of the liver and can also cause long term liver damage. It is usually spread by humans sharing contaminated equipment while injecting drugs, or sexually. 

Labour’s shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan, who asked the parliamentary question, said the data raised “serious public health questions” about what was going on in prisons, which he said “appear to be being made worse as a result of this government’s policies”.

He added: “While prisoners are behind bars, ministers may believe this is a controllable problem but 90 per cent of them will be free and walking the streets in the near future.”

In his answer, Mr Lamb said it was unclear whether the affected prisoners had become infected while they were in jail “or due to risk activity prior to incarceration”.

Dr Marcus Bicknell, chair of the Secure Environments Group at the Royal College of GPs, said the rise may be down to an increase in the number of foreign prisoners.

“At my own clinical practice I see a higher prevalence of HIV and Hepatitis B from foreign nationals… we have tremendous ethnic diversity in our country and also in our prison system, and that means we’re inevitably going to diagnose more cases,” he said.

But Dr Éamonn O’Moore, director of health and justice at PHE, said the rise “most likely represents improved levels of testing among prisoners and improved reporting to PHE, rather than a rise in the true prevalence of infection.”

A Department of Health spokesperson added: “Making sure prisoners get a prompt diagnosis and the treatment they need benefits everyone, both inside and outside the prison walls. This rise in cases is because we are getting better at testing but we know we can still make further improvements.”

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Early Years Teacher

    £90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Early Years supply teachers neede...

    Commercial Litigation NQ+

    Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

    MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

    Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

    Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?