World Hepatitis Day is this Friday, July 28th, and the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is highlighting the importance of prevention, testing and treatment for hepatitis.
“Hepatitis is a serious virus that may lead to liver failure, cancer or cirrhosis. Hepatitis often goes undetected, meaning people can unknowingly spread the disease to others,” says Blair Michno, a Public Health Nurse with the HKPR District Health Unit. “If you think you may be at risk of hepatitis, ask to be tested so that you can get the appropriate medical follow-up and treatment.”
The three types of hepatitis are: Hepatitis A, which is spread through close contact with an infected person, or by consuming Hep A-contaminated food or water; Hepatitis B, that is passed on through infected blood and other body fluids; Hepatitis C, which is passed on through blood-to-blood contact.
Hep B and C varieties are particularly worrisome, according to Ms. Michno, because they can lead to serious liver disease problems in people. Typically, people can get Hepatitis B and C by sharing needles, pipes, unsterile body piercing and tattoo equipment, and personal hygiene items such as razors. These can also be spread by having unprotected sex, and through blood transfusions done prior to 1992.
To prevent the spread of Hepatitis B and C, the Health Unit advises: against sharing drug equipment such as needles; we avoid having unprotected sex; and we not share personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes, nail clippers and razors. The Health Unit supplies free safe injection and inhalation kits, to reduce the spread of infections like hepatitis.
Getting vaccinated for Hepatitis B is also recommended. Although no vaccine exists for Hepatitis C, medical advances mean, this strain of the disease is treatable and curable in most cases, when detected early.
To learn more about hepatitis testing and treatment options, speak to your health care provider, or call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577.