25 NZers Infected by Deadly Virus Every Week
25 New Zealanders Infected by Deadly Virus Every
Friday 29th September 2006
Leading health professionals today called on all New Zealanders to wake up to the dangers of Hepatitis C, a virus more infectious than HIV, which is leading to 25 new infections among New Zealanders every week.
It is estimated by the Hepatitis C Resource Centre that up to 40, 000 people in this country have Hepatitis C and this number is predicted to double by 2010, if precautions are not taken.
According to the Centre only 50% of those carrying the virus know they have it, so many health professionals are taking advantage of the fact that Sunday October 1st 2006 is World Hepatitis C Awareness Day to help educate the public and expose this 'silent epidemic'.
Associate Professor Edward Gane, of the NZ Liver Transplant Unit, says: "Of the New Zealanders who have Hepatitis C up to 60 die or have liver transplants every year, and this number will treble by 2020."
Dr Cheryl Brunton, a leading researcher from the Christchurch School of Medicine, recognises the direct and increasing cost this has on the New Zealand health system: "In the next 20 years Hepatitis C related liver disease will cost the New Zealand health system up to $400 million."
Currently, they say, there is no universal treatment or vaccine for Hepatitis C so the best way to stop this 'silent epidemic' is prevention through education.
Unlike Hepatitis A and B, Hepatitis C is spread only through blood-to-blood contact.
The main way people contract Hepatitis C is through sharing injecting equipment, although sharing personal care products can also put you at risk. Prior to 1992 unscreened blood and blood-products caused the virus to spread.
Robyn Brown from the Hepatitis C Resource Centre says "If anyone thinks they many have been exposed to the Hepatitis C virus in the past, they should see their doctor or health advisor who can arrange a simple screening test. This test is free at some sexual health clinics."
The World Health Organisation estimates that 3% of the world's population has Hepatitis C, with over 170 million being chronic carriers of the virus.
Further information on the disease, its diagnosis, treatment and support services available can be obtained from the Hepatitis C Resources Centre