Improving liver health
MEDICAL professionals are using the impetus of NSW Hepatitis Awareness Week to raise public awareness of high infection rates on the North Coast.
It's estimated there are more than 225,000 people in Australia living with chronic hepatitis C and 170,000 people with chronic hepatitis B.
Alarmingly, many people do not even know they are infected, as symptoms rarely occur at the time of infection.
North Coast and Mid-North Local Health Districts Manager of HIV & Related Programs Jenny Heslop said the region has higher than average rates of Hepatitis C.
Northern NSW meanwhile, has the second highest notification rate of HCV on average in NSW.
"Although a number of public health strategies such as blood donor screening, Hep B vaccinations and the well utilised needle syringe program have contributed to significantly minimising the rates of transmission, we still have a long way to go to get on top of this issue," Ms Heslop said.
NSW Hepatitis Awareness Week is running this week and World Hepatitis Day happens on Saturday.
"Hepatitis C and B are two different viruses, both cause liver inflammation and liver disease.
"As they are blood borne viruses, infected blood has to enter the blood stream of another person for infection to occur.
"People should consider being tested if they feel they have been at risk or possibly exposed either by sharing injecting equipment - even if only once, had a tattoo or body piercing from a non-registered facility; arrived from, or had medical treatment in a country with high rates of hepatitis B or C; received blood or blood products prior to 1990," she said.
For information about Hepatitis go to: www.hep.org.au