July 28 is World Hepatitis Day and Niagara Health is working to raise awareness around the importance of getting tested. This year’s theme is: Hepatitis Can’t Wait.
“Currently, over 200 people in Niagara are living with hepatitis C,” says Brenda Yeandle, Manager of Addiction Services at Niagara Health. “This is a virus that can be stopped from spreading and cured if detected early enough. So it is important that we continue to raise awareness around prevention, testing and treatment options.”
Hepatitis C is spread when blood carrying the virus gets into the bloodstream of another person. The virus attacks the liver and if left untreated, can result in the development of cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.
Thousands of Canadians are infected with hepatitis every year and remain undiagnosed. Around the world, 9 in 10 people living with viral hepatitis, including hepatitis C, don’t know they have it which may result in them developing fatal liver disease or unknowingly transmitting the virus to others, according to the World Hepatitis Alliance’s NOhep campaign to eliminate hepatitis by 2030.
Hepatitis C is most commonly transmitted through unsafe injecting practices, sharing drug paraphernalia, inadequate sterilisation of medical or tattooing equipment, and the use of contaminated blood products. In rare cases, it can be transmitted through certain sexual practices and during childbirth. Go to the NOhep website to learn more.
It is important to get tested if you are experiencing symptoms, especially if you think you may have been exposed. Symptoms of hepatitis can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain, and jaundice.
Reach out to your family doctor or the Niagara Health Hepatitis C Care clinic to get tested and start treatment.
For more information, members of the public can contact the Hepatitis C Care clinic by phone 905-378-4647 Ext. 32554 or email HCCC@niagarahealth.on.ca.