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WHAT’S YOUR STATUS?

- World Hepatitis Day Marks the Importance of Being Screened for a Serious Virus That Often Goes Undetected -

Today (July 28) is World Hepatitis Day, and local health officials want to shine the spotlight on a serious virus that often goes undetected.

While there are many different varieties of hepatitis, two types in particular – Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C – can lead to serious liver disease problems in people. That’s why the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is encouraging local residents to realize the importance of prevention, testing and treatment for the disease. This World Hepatitis Day, people are asked to ‘know your status. Get tested. Learn your options.’

“Many people are unaware they have hepatitis, and can unknowingly spread the virus to others,” says Joanne Paynter, a Public Health Nurse with the HKPR District Health Unit. “If you think you may be at risk of hepatitis, ask to be tested so that you can get the appropriate medical follow-up that is needed.”

Hepatitis may lead to liver failure, cancer and cirrhosis. Hepatitis B and C can result from exposure to contaminated blood or bodily fluids containing blood. This can occur through the sharing of needles, pipes, unsterile body piercing and tattoo equipment, personal hygiene items such as razors, and through blood transfusions done prior to 1990.

To prevent the spread of viral hepatitis, the Health Unit encourages people not to share drug equipment such as needles. The Health Unit supplies free safe injection and inhalation kits to reduce the spread of diseases like hepatitis.

Other ways to reduce contracting hepatitis are to avoid having unprotected sex and sharing personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes, nail clippers and razors. Vaccination against Hepatitis B is also advised as a means to protect people from the disease. Although no vaccine exists for Hepatitis C, medical advances mean this strain of the disease is treatable and curable in most cases when detected early.

“Hepatitis can have devastating effects on the liver, so it’s important to get tested if you think you are at risk,” Paynter adds. “This will ensure early diagnosis and effective treatment.”

To learn more about hepatitis testing and treatment, speak to your local health care provider or contact the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577. More information is also available at the World Hepatitis Day website.

For media inquiries, contact:

Joanne Paynter, Public Health Nurse, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100.

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