The Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver has released a new set of guidelines that says anyone born between 1945 and 1975 should be tested for hepatitis-C , a virus that affects more than 250,000 Canadians.
What Is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver. It results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.”
Acute Hepatitis C virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection.
Chronic Hepatitis C virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis C virus remains in a person’s body. Hepatitis C virus infection can last a lifetime and lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.
The good news is that thanks to new medicines, hepatitis C is now relatively easy to cure.
Common Ways To Get Exposed to Hepititus C
Hepatitis C is common worldwide. An estimated 170 million individuals are infected. Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact, which means that to contract hepatitis C, blood infected with the hepatitis C virus must get into your blood stream.
You may risk exposure to hepatitis C by using injection drugs (even once), getting tattoos, piercings, pedicures, manicures or medical procedures with improperly sterilized equipment, sharing personal hygiene items with an infected person (e.g. razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers) or having had a blood transfusion or received blood products prior to July 1990.
Take this online quiz to access your risk from the Canadian Liver Association.
The researchers estimate between two-thirds and three-quarters of those living with HCV in Canada were born from 1945 to 1975 and that 1.6 per cent of those in that cohort has HCV.
If you are interested in getting tested, ask your health care provider for a blood test to determine if you have the virus.
Why get tested for hepatitis C?
You may have it and not know it. Many infected people live for up to 20 or 30 years without feeling sick. When or if symptoms appear during the late stage of infection, they often reflect serious damage to the liver.
Approximately 75% of people who are infected develop chronic infection (although about 25% will clear their infection on their own).
Hepatitis C is a leading cause of cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver transplants.
New treatments can cure Hepatitis C and prevent further liver damage and improve health outcomes.
For more information, please visit the Canadian Liver Foundation website at this link.
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