OTTAWA, July 26, 2017 /CNW Telbec/ - On July 28, as nations around the world mark World Hepatitis Day, Canadian physicians and nurses, public health professionals and policy makers, as well as survivors of hepatitis, will be taking stock of this country's progress and gaps in its efforts to eliminate hepatitis as a global health threat.
Viral hepatitis is a serious liver disease that may lead to liver failure, cirrhosis, cancer, disability and death, if left untreated.
"The elimination of hepatitis C is within reach," says Dr. Curtis Cooper, Director, The Ottawa Hospital and Regional Viral Hepatitis Program, referring to recent developments in treatment options. According to Dr. Cooper, in the past few years, new therapies have become available that significantly change treatment and outcome for people who are affected by hepatitis C. The medications are safe and well-tolerated, easy to administer, with a success rate of up to 95%.
Additionally, most of the provinces/territories have included new hepatitis therapies in their health plans and have expanded eligibility criteria, improving access for affected Canadians.
Unfortunately, although some 300,000 Canadians are infected with hepatitis C, almost half of them are unaware of their condition and are therefore falling in between the cracks of the existing system. This is because viral hepatitis progresses slowly and silently, destroying liver cells and causing inflammation, often with no recognizable symptoms for 20-30 years.
Baby boomers, or people born between 1945 and 1975, have the highest rate of undetected hepatitis C in Canada. This may be due to participating in risky behaviours in their youth, from experimenting with injection drugs to DIY tattoos, or being contaminated through blood transfusions and unsafe medical practices prior to 1992. Others, thousands of Canadians from every walk of life, like Ottawa's Steve Pollard, cannot trace the source of the hepatitis C that may threaten to take their life.
After two liver transplants and aggressive drug therapy, Pollard knows the importance of early detection. "If I had undergone routine testing, they would have found the hepatitis earlier, and I may not have lost my liver and come so close to losing everything."
Dr. Cooper agrees. "We cannot treat people until they have been tested and diagnosed. Screening is the first step in care."
The Canadian Society for International Health is once again spearheading the organization of the World Hepatitis Day campaign in Canada. This year's theme is: "Know your status? Get tested. Learn your options." More than 140 events organized by 60 different partners will be held across Canada to encourage Canadians to get tested, and to promote treatment and care for those affected by viral hepatitis.
The Canadian Society for International Health (CSIH) brings the Canadian global health community together to better achieve a shared goal of improving health worldwide.
SOURCE Canadian Society for International Health (CSIH)
For further information: Marg Buchanan: 514.627.3932