Grappling with ABC of hepatitis
HEPATITIS Victoria is urging people with risk factors for the disease to tell their doctors and arrange a blood test as soon as possible.
Hepatitis Victoria CEO Helen McNeill told the Weekly a veil of silence around the disease was needlessly condemning many people to an early death from liver failure and cancer.
In Monash, 113 people were diagnosed with hepatitis B last year and 55 with hepatitis C. So far this year 79 have been diagnosed with hepatitis B or C, out of a total of 1327 new diagnoses in Victoria.
But the number of Monash people unknowingly living with the disease is likely to be much higher, Mrs McNeill said.
"In Australia we have around 100,000 people who don't even know they have either hepatitis B or hepatitis C."
Hepatitis C is most commonly contracted from sharing needles while injecting drugs. It can also be contracted by "backyard" tattoos when needles are shared.
Mrs McNeill said the complicating factor was that it could be 15 or 20 years before people developed symptoms of the disease. By that time their drug-taking might be a distant and embarrassing memory.
"The silence is stopping people from knowing they are at risk and from getting the information, care and support they need."
People with any known risk factors to talk to their GP and arrange to have a blood test as soon as possible. People who come from regions where hepatitis B is endemic - including south-east Asia and the Pacific Islands - should also be tested, she said.http://bit.ly/pRe13q