'Deal with it' documentary Exposes Canada's Hidden Hepatitis C Epidemic

Baby Boomers Largest Group At Risk But Most Don't Know It

TORONTO, July 22, 2014 /CNW/ - 50-year-old Canadian Forces Sergeant Lance Gibson was trained to defend himself against countless dangers – except the one that almost took his life. Despite feeling in top physical shape, the Afghanistan war veteran discovered he had hepatitis C – a disease he had been living with for 28 years – and was facing imminent liver failure unless he received a liver transplant. His story is not unique.

Gibson is one of the many Canadians profiled in the new documentary Deal with It: Untold Stories of Hepatitis C in Canada, which uncovers the country's hepatitis C epidemic. This month the documentary's producers, Bang Albino Films, and the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) will be showcasing the newly released film [https://vimeo.com/ondemand/dealwithit] online to raise  awareness of the disease in the lead-up to World Hepatitis Day (July 28). Starting today and running through to August 5th, Bang Albino will donate a portion of all on-demand sales for Deal with it to support the Canadian Liver Foundation's research on hepatitis C and liver disease.

Currently, 300,000 to 500,000 Canadians are estimated to have hepatitis C, a deadly virus that attacks the liver and can lead to liver cancer, transplantation or death. Approximately 70-80% of the hepatitis C cases in Canada affect baby boomers, but many of them are unaware they have the virus.

"The difficulty with hepatitis C is that there are no symptoms until it's too late," says Dr. Hemant Shah, Clinical Director, Francis Family Liver Clinic, University Health Network in Toronto. "It's like you're walking towards a cliff. You're looking towards the horizon, but you don't appreciate that the ground is about to give way and you feel perfectly fine as you walk towards that cliff."

Shah and other liver experts interviewed for the film warn that hepatitis C – the cause of more deaths and years of life lost than any other infectious disease in Canada, including HIV/AIDS – has the potential to devastate the nation's healthcare system, unless government health agencies at all levels proactively identify individuals with the disease now.

Indeed, healthcare costs for treating hepatitis C are projected to rise by 60% over the next two decades.

Ironically, thanks to the emergence of new drug therapies, hepatitis C is now one of the few chronic diseases that can be cured in most instances – if it's caught and treated soon enough.

"A simple blood test will do it and if you are detected early on, there is the capacity to eradicate it, cure it, treat it without having a liver transplant," says comedian Mike MacDonald  who was interviewed for the film and  who underwent a liver transplant in March 2013 due to hepatitis C.

For World Hepatitis Day, the Canadian Liver Foundation is urging people to watch Deal with it and to talk openly about all forms of hepatitis, including hepatitis C and B (both responsible for making liver cancer the fastest rising and deadliest cancer in the country and for increasing demand for liver transplants), so they can determine their own risk factors, get tested and, if necessary, get treated.

"This documentary not only shows the real faces of hepatitis C but also drives home the point that it's a disease that no one thought about until they were diagnosed," says Gary Fagan, President of the Canadian Liver Foundation. "We hope the stories in Deal with it can prevent many unnecessary deaths by encouraging people in at-risk groups to get tested."

About the Canadian Liver Foundation
Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Through its chapters across the country, the CLF strives to promote liver health, improve public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raise funds for research and provide support to individuals affected by liver disease. Web: liver.ca  

About Bang Albino
Bang Albino Films is dedicated to creating short- and long-form documentaries on a variety health and social issues affecting Canadians. Web: dealwithitfilm.com Facebook: facebook.com/dealwithitfilm Twitter: @dealwithitfilm

SOURCE Canadian Liver Foundation

For further information: Melanie Kearns, 416-491-3353 x4923, mkearns@liver.ca