Every 30 seconds, someone loses their life to hepatitis.
The global theme this World Hepatitis Day is “Hep Can’t Wait” asking people not to delay testing and treatment.
Hepatitis is the inflammation that occurs in the liver which can lead to serious liver damage or even liver cancer.
There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus – A, B, C, D and E. Together, hepatitis B and C are the most common which result in 1.1 million deaths and 3 million new infections per year.
Austin Health’s Liver Transplant Unit has found that 84 per cent of all liver transplants are preventable, with the vast majority being due to Hepatitis B and C. Unfortunately, liver cancer is the most rapidly rising cancer in Australia and this is largely due to viral hepatitis.
“Awareness, prevention, appropriate surveillance and management is the key for Hepatitis B. There is a highly effective vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B and well tolerated treatments if you have Hepatitis B,” says Gastroenterologist, Chris Leung.
Who should get tested for Hepatitis B?
- People born in Asia, Africa, Middle East, Pacific Islands, Eastern & Southern Europe
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
- Pregnant women
- Intravenous drug users
- Sex workers
- Haemodialysis patients
- People with another STI, hepatitis C or HIV infection
- Household contacts, family members and intimate partners of people with Hepatitis B (there is a free vaccine for household contacts who are negative)
- Everyone prior to receiving immunosuppressive therapy
- People with abnormal liver function tests of unknown cause.
“Hepatitis C is curable. Our outreach program provides rapid access to treatment, which consists of 1-3 tablets a day, for 8-12 weeks, and achieves a 98 per cent cure rate with minimal to no side effects,” says Sam Dickson, Hepatitis C Outreach, Clinical Nurse Consultant.
“Treatment is recommended for all patients with Hepatitis C infection regardless of previous treatment history."
Who should get tested for Hepatitis C?
Everyone should be tested for hepatitis C, even those without symptoms or known liver disease. Testing for Hepatitis C is especially important if you:
- Were born from 1945 to 1965 (age group with highest rate)
- Have abnormal liver function test results with no identified cause
- Are a healthcare worker who has had a blood or needle stick injury
- Were exposed to reusable, unsterilised equipment during medical/ceremonial/tattoo procedures
- Have injected or inhaled illicit drugs
- Have been in prison
- Are a haemophiliac treated with clotting factors before 1987
- Have undergone long-term haemodialysis
- Received blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992
- Are living with HIV
- Were born to a mother with hepatitis C.
People with an ongoing risk of exposure should have a yearly Hepatitis C testing.
Tests for hepatitis C are not part of regular blood tests, you must ask your GP or specialist to test for it.
For hepatitis testing and referral to a specialist service, speak to your GP.
To access our Hepatitis C Outreach, Rapid Access to Treatment Clinic, please ask your GP to refer you or call 0481 909 741 or email Livernurses@austin.org.au
More information is available on the Austin Health website and Hepatitis Victoria.