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Southern DHB Encourages Testing on World Hepatitis Day

Southern DHB encourages testing as part of World Hepatitis Day

Get tested, get treated – this is the message Southern DHB will be promoting as part of World Hepatitis Day this Friday, 28 July. ‘Eliminate Hepatitis’ is the theme for this year, which includes a goal of eliminating Hepatitis B and C in the next 13 years.

Approximately 50,000 New Zealanders have Hepatitis C – an inflammation of the liver caused by the virus – and there are an estimated 1000 new cases each year. Hepatitis C is mainly spread through blood-to-blood contact.

Southern DHB Clinical Nurse Specialist, Gastroenterology, Margaret Fraser says Hepatitis C is now curable with direct acting anti-viral medications. “All it takes is an inexpensive blood test. If infection is present your GP can usually treat this without the need for a referral.

“For most people 12 weeks is all it takes. GPs can now assess and treat, and for many people [treatment] is fully funded by Pharmac. The cure rate is 97%”

Hep C symptoms can be vague and include fatigue, weakness, sweats, nausea, poor appetite, or pain in the muscles or joints. The virus frequently affects cognitive function and some people experience brain fog, forgetfulness, depression and anger.

“Frequently, people are unaware of their Hep C infection until they develop liver cirrhosis. This may take 20 to 30 years to develop,” says Ms Fraser. “Once liver cirrhosis has developed, people are at risk of developing liver cancer or failure.

“When people are cured they generally have more energy, feel better and have improved mental clarity. If a patient has not developed liver damage before treatment, their liver essentially returns to normal.”

As part of World Hepatitis Day this Friday 28 July, there will be an open lecture by Professor Ed Gane on ‘Hepatitis C from Discovery to Elimination within 50 years’ to be held on the 1st floor Auditorium, Dunedin Art Gallery at 5pm.

It is recommended you get tested if you answer yes to one or more points below:

• Have injected drugs (even if only once)

• Have received a tattoo or body piercing using unsterile equipment

• Lived or received medical attention in a high-risk country (South East Asia, China, Eastern Europe (including Russia), or the Middle East

• Had a blood transfusion or received blood products prior to 1992

• Have ever been in prison

• Were born to a mother living with hepatitis C.

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