There has been a surge in demand for hepatitis C tests since the BBC revealed that hundreds of people in the UK were unknowingly infected with the virus, the Hepatitis C Trust says.

Up to 27,000 people caught it when they were given transfusions with infected blood from the 1970s until 1991.

According to BBC analysis, a further 1,700 people who caught it in the same way have not yet been diagnosed.

Left untreated, hepatitis can cause chronic liver disease and can be fatal.

Known as the “silent killer”, hepatitis C may cause few symptoms initially, with early signs including night sweats, brain fog, itchy skin and fatigue. But for every year a person carries the virus, their chance of dying from liver cirrhosis and related cancers increases.

The Hepatitis C Trust told the BBC 12,800 people in England have requested NHS home-testing kits in just over a week, compared with 2,300 in the entire month of April.

The charity said it had been “inundated with callers across the UK seeking further advice and testing”.

“It has been incredible seeing the response from the public as they have become more aware of the risks of hepatitis C,” said Rachel Halford, from the charity.

“Most people who get tested will receive a negative result and have peace of mind, but it is important to find those individuals who are unaware of their status so that we can get them access to a simple and effective treatment.”