Hepatitis C sufferers don’t know they have it

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board is supporting a worldwide campaign to stamp out viral hepatitis and raise awareness to find an estimated 25,000 New Zealanders who go undiagnosed with Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is a highly infectious virus that is spread through blood-to-blood contact. Infection leads to inflammation of the liver and, if left undiagnosed, can develop into advanced liver disease. However, if caught early, treatment is more than 90% successful.

Chief Medical Officer – Hospital, Dr John Gommans, says the reason why so many people probably go undiagnosed is because symptoms of Hepatitis C can be very vague. 

If you have hepatitis C, you may have:

  • unusual tiredness or fatigue
  • joint pain
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain.

“Many people with Hepatitis C have no symptoms, but a blood test will confirm whether or not you have Hepatitis C, and it’s as simple as booking an appointment with your doctor and getting tested,” said Dr Gommans.

World Hepatitis Day is held in July and this year’s theme is: “Know it, test it, treat it.”

People at risk of having Hepatitis C might be able to say “yes” to any of the following questions:
• Have you ever had jaundice or abnormal liver function?
• Does your mother or a household member have Hepatitis C?
• Have you ever lived in or received health care in South-East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Middle East, Eastern Europe?
• Have you ever had a tattoo or a body piercing?
• Have you ever injected drugs or used intranasal drugs?
• Have you ever been in prison?
• Did you receive a blood transfusion prior to July 1992?

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