To mark World Hepatitis Day on July 28, the Hepatitis Foundation is encouraging people to get tested if they think they could be at risk of the ‘silent disease’.

Around 150,000 people are estimated to live with viral hepatitis in New Zealand and many of those might be undiagnosed. Hepatitis Foundation chief executive Susan Hay said people often don’t show symptoms for decades and can suffer liver damage as a result.

“Hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver, an extremely important organ we cannot live without. If viral hepatitis is not diagnosed, managed or treated it can lead to serious health issues, including liver cancer.” Hepatitis remains the leading cause of cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver transplantation in the world.

The foundation encourages people to get tested who may have been exposed to viral hepatitis.

Hepatitis B risk factors:

  • Has a mother, household member or close family member living with hepatitis B
  • Born before 1987 when a vaccination programme was introduced in New Zealand
  • Has ever injected drugs (even once)
  • Received a tattoo or piercing using unsterile equipment
  • Was born outside New Zealand
  • Had unprotected sex with someone living with hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C risk factors: 

  • Has injected drugs (even if only once)
  • Has received a tattoo or body piercing using unsterile equipment
  • Lived or received medical attention in a high-risk country (South East Asia, China, Eastern Europe (including Russia), or the Middle East)
  • Had a blood transfusion or received blood products prior to 1992
  • Has ever been in prison
  • Was born to a mother living with hepatitis C.

If you think you are at risk of hepatitis B or C, contact your GP or NP about getting tested.

More information at the Hepatitis Foundation 

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