This Sunday, July 28, is World Hepatitis Day and those in the care field hope that people will take this as an opportunity to get tested for Hepatitis C.
“Hepatitis C is considered a silent epidemic because you can live with it for about 20 years with minimal or no symptoms, though about 20 per cent can clear it,” said Kelly Ferguson, from East Kootenay ANKORS.
She said that for World Hepatitis Day there are events around the world in relation to Hepatitis.
Hepatitis A is caused by fecal oral matter, so it means you have to ingest fecal matter to get it. About 80 per cent of people can clear the virus on their own.
Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted infection. In B.C. kids have been getting vaccinated for it in Grade Six since 1994.
Hepatitis C is usually passed on through high risk behaviour, such as through injection drug use which accounts for 70 per cent of new cases. Ferguson said snorting and smoking drugs is also a possible passageway if the object used for the task is shared.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C can include psoriasis of the liver, liver tumours, diabetes, and people may become more prone to pneumonia.
Gary Dalton, care team co-ordinator at ANKORS, said part of the hope for World Hepatitis Day is just to get rid of some of the misinformation that people have for the forms of the disease.
“Hepatitis A and B are curable, but they allow Hepatitis C in easier if it is not treated early enough,” Dalton said. “It’s important to get treated for those, especially because they are treatable. You can be inoculated against A and B. For people who do test positive for Hep C, it’s important that they get a second test.”
Dalton explained that the first test looks for antibodies trying to resist the disease, while the second test actually looks for the presence of the virus. Because 20 per cent of people can clear the virus naturally, the presence of antibodies doesn’t necessarily mean that the virus is still active.
“If they don’t get the second test, they may or may not change behaviour, thinking they still have it,” he said.
ANKORS is a support group for people with AIDS and Hepatitis C.
“We do try and provide support for families and communities who are living with it,” he said. “We do a lot of education as well, in schools and other organizations. But testing has always been a significant issue, especially since access has been reduced somewhat. Your family doctor is the best place to get tested. We’re trying to provide more resources through the Options (for Sexual Health) clinics.”
For more info, call Kelly Ferguson at ANKORS at 250-426-3383.