July 28 is World Hepatitis Day. Many persons with viral hepatitis experience no obvious symptoms until serious liver damage has occurred. In fact, in Canada, about 1 in 5 people with Hepatitis C do not know they have the virus. If left untreated, viral hepatitis can lead to severe damage to the liver, liver cancer, and the need for a liver transplant.
According to CATIE, Canada’s source for HIV and hepatitis C information,
Hep C often enters the body by:
- sharing drug equipment, including needles, syringes, filters, water and cookers for injecting drugs; and pipes or straws for snorting drugs
- sharing improperly sterilized tools for tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture and electrolysis; sharing tattoo ink and ink pots can also pass on Hep C
Hep C can also enter the body:
- through medical procedures, including vaccinations and surgeries, that re-use equipment that was not sterilized
- through blood transfusions or organ transplants if they were not screened for Hep C (Canada started screening donated blood and organs for Hep C in 1990; in some other countries, blood wasn’t screened for Hep C until more recently)
- by sharing personal items that might have blood on them, such as razors, nail clippers and toothbrushes
- during rough sex among men who also have HIV
- from parent to child during pregnancy or childbirth
Most people do not have symptoms for many years. The only way to know if you have Hep C is to get tested. If you have Hep C, treatment is available.
Want to know more? Visit us at one of our World Hepatitis Day events this weekend in Edson on Saturday and Hinton on Sunday.