Around 600,000 Canadians are infected with Hepatitis-B or C, but almost half of them don’t know about it. That’s according to the Canadian Society for International Health, which is raising awareness for today’s World Hepatitis Day.

Heidi Pitfield, Manager of the Communicable Diseases Program for the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit, says there is no vaccine for Hepatitis-C, and says it’s very important to be tested and treated as soon as possible to increase the chances of a full recovery.

 

She says it can take 20 to 30 years for symptoms to develop. Pitfield says one of the goals of World Hepatitis Day is to raise awareness about the importance of being tested.

 

Pitfield says Hepatitis-A, B, and C all come from the same family and then there are a few different strains of the virus. Hepatitis-A is transferred through food, and B and C are a blood borne strain, transferred through saliva, blood, mucus membranes and semen. She says the disease can lead to liver failure, cancer and even death if it isn’t treated.

Pitfield says there is a vaccine for Hepatitis-B and you can keep yourself protected by getting that shot. However, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis-C.

She says one way to keep yourself safe is if you’re going for a tattoo, piercing or aesthetic service, make sure the location is inspected by the health unit.

 

When it comes to getting tested, Pitfield says start with your primary care provider. However, since Hepatitis-B and C can be transmitted through unprotected sex, the health unit’s sexual health clinic can also do some assessments. Call the health unit’s Health Connection program at 1-705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 for more details on setting up an appointment.