Hepatitis: Get Yourself Tested

(Photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc. / jirsak)

With World Hepatitis Day earlier this week, an official at the Windsor Essex County Health Centre is urging residents to get tested for Hepatitis.

Director of Clinical Practice, Beth Kinnard-Iler says an average of 140 new cases is confirmed in Windsor-Essex each year. That’s 15% higher than the provincial average.

“People need to know that there is a cure for Hepatitis and medications are available,” says Kinnard-Iler. “There are a variety of medications with very few side effects.”

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and can sometimes lead to acute liver failure. Chronic Hepatitis is also linked to liver cancer. There are five main types: A, B, C, D and E.

Kinnard-Iler says the homeless are most vulnerable to infection, but the general population can be at risk too.

“Hepatitis is contracted by intravenous drug use and also being in a sexual relationship with someone who uses drugs,” she says. “If you’ve had any experience in a prison system. If you’ve had a blood transfusion in the past. If you are a youth living rough on the streets.”

Many of those infected are not aware they are carrying the disease. They may not experience symptoms, or have symptoms like abdominal pain which can be associated with a stomach bug. Other symptoms include a yellow discolouration of the skin and eyes, poor appetite, fatigue and vomiting.

In 1998, the Canadian government and the Red Cross were successfully sued by victims of Hepatitis C who contracted the disease through tainted blood transfusions before blood was tested for Hepatitis.

The lawsuit lead to the separation of the Red Cross from its humanitarian mission, and blood collection which became the duty of Canadian Blood Services.