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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

 

Resources

Catie Hepatitis C/HIV information

http://www.catie.ca/en/hepatitis-c/key-messages/abcs

Canadian liver foundation Hepatitis information

http://www.liver.ca/liver-disease/types/viral-hepatitis-a-b-c.aspx

Canadian Liver Foundation statement on Hepatitis C testing

http://www.liver.ca/support-liver-foundation/advocate/clf-position-statements/hepatitis_C_testing.aspx

Liver Care Canada

http://www.livercarecanada.com/patients/

Immunizations

http://health.gov.on.ca/en/public/publications/immune/hepb.aspx

http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/hepatitis/hep_a.aspx

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