Hepatitis Awareness Month
May marks hepatitis awareness month. Hepatitis is an inflammatory disease of the liver. It can be caused by chemical/drug exposure, autoimmune disease or by a virus. Viral hepatitis is the most common form of hepatitis. Many people can have the virus and never show any symptoms. Viral hepatitis is broken into three types. Hepatitis A is passed along in feces and can be found in contaminated water or food. Hepatitis B is passed when someone comes in contact with blood, semen, vaginal fluids or rectal fluids of someone with Hepatitis B. There is no treatment for Hepatitis A and B but being aware of your risks and being immunized against them is your best defence.
Hepatitis C is passed through blood to blood contact such as sharing needles for injection, receiving blood transfusion before 1990, or re-using tools that break the skin such as tattooing. Many people with Hepatitis C don’t have any risk factors and never present with any symptoms such as jaundice. Approximately 240,000 people in Canada have Hepatitis C and less then half are aware. Hepatitis C has a cure but if left untreated can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer. Testing for Hepatitis C is now available by a simple oral swab or finger stick and can give you fast results if you have been exposed to hepatitis C.
Who should get testing for Hepatitis C?
- Anyone born between 1945-1975 (Talk to you health care provider to see if you qualify)
- Immigrants from East Europe, Central Asia, Middle East or other countries where it is prevalent
- Anyone with past or current use of intravenous drugs or snorting drugs
- Blood transfusion before 1990
- Children born to Hepatitis C positive mothers
- Sharing personal care items with someone who has Hepatitis
- Risky sexual encounters
Who should get immunizations for hepatitis A and B for adults?
- Traveling to endemic areas
- Waiting for liver transplant
- On renal dialysis
- History of any type of liver disease make sure you have immunizations against Hepatitis A and B
- Intravenous drug use
- Men having sex with men
- Needle stick injury
- Household and sexual contact of chronic Hep A and B carriers or acute cases
- Diagnosed with a chronic liver disease
See your nurse practitioner or family doctor if you have any questions or concerns about hepatitis testing or immunizations for Hepatitis A and B
Tannice Fletcher-Stackhouse NP-PHC
Liver Care Canada
Catie Hepatitis C/HIV information
Canadian liver foundation Hepatitis information
Canadian Liver Foundation statement on Hepatitis C testing
Liver Care Canada