Friday, November 22, 2013

Most Canadians infected with hepatitis unaware of it

Seventy per cent of the about 138,600 Canadians infected with hepatitis C based on blood tests did not know they had the virus, according to a recent study.

The results from the Canadian Health Measures Survey come amid calls for baby boomers to be screened with a one-time test for hepatitis C infection (HCV), which liver specialists say can be eradicated if treated early.

Accurate infection awareness is important for health-care seeking, receipt of treatment, vaccination uptake, and disease prevention, but more than half of respondents who tested positive for hepatitis B and hepatitis C did not know that they were infected.

Hepatitis C is transmitted through blood, blood products, organs, tissues and cell transplants, infected needles and other sharp objects, and from mother to infant during pregnancy.

The prevalence of HCV infection from blood tests was 0.5 per cent, which represents an estimated 138,600 people.

Accordingly to some of the experts, the survey severely underestimates the true number of patients infected with hepatitis C in Canada. According to a liver specialist, since the hepatitis C test first became available in 1991 or '92, there have been about 300,000 people identified as having hepatitis C. One of the reasons could be that the survey did not include patients from immigrant communities who don't speak English.

For present hepatitis B infections, the prevalence was 0.4 per cent, representing an estimated 111,800.

Among those who tested positive for HCV, 69.5 per cent said they were not aware of the infection. For those with  hepatitis B, 54.5 per cent said they didn't know they had it.


Post a Comment