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Hepatitis C…A Sleeping Dragon

Media Release
6 April 2004

Hepatitis C…A Sleeping Dragon

More than 25,000 people in New Zealand have hepatitis C and that figure is escalating by 1300 new infections a year. Dr Cheryl Brunton from the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Otago University, warns that there are going to be major health consequences and costs for New Zealand in the future.

“Hepatitis C is not innocuous, it’s a potentially serious illness and can result in long term chronic conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer, “ she says. These consequences take many years, even decades to develop. “This disease is already costing the health system and these costs will rapidly escalate over the next 30 years, as the burden of disease increases.”

Dr Brunton will be talking about what we have learned about the epidemiology of hepatitis C in New Zealand and how the country has responded in the sixth Health Lecture in the current public Series. Her lecture, “A Sleeping Dragon…Hepatitis C”, will be presented on Wednesday April 7 at 7.30pm in the Rolleston Lecture Theatre.

Dr Brunton says we have not yet slain the Hepatitis C dragon, in fact it is getting bigger and more dangerous every year. She says much more attention needs to be paid to raising awareness of this disease, and its prevention and treatment if this is to change.

Injecting drug use is one of the main drivers of the hepatitis C epidemic, both locally and globally, and everyone who has injected drugs at some stage is at risk. Before blood and blood products were screened for hepatitis C people also acquired the disease that way. “This is a virus that is transmitted by blood to blood contact”, she says.

People with hepatitis C often find that others know very little about it or have misconceptions. ”The stigma and discrimination they experience as a result, only compounds the problems of living with this virus”, says Dr Brunton.


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