Thousands of Canadians are living with Hepatitis C, but many don't know it
(NC)—You've likely heard of hepatitis C. What you may not know is that more than 300,000 people in Canada are living with the disease, but many don't know it. How can that be? Well most people who contract the virus don't feel sick until years or even decades later when their liver becomes severely damaged. Left undiagnosed and untreated, chronic hepatitis C causes cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure.
How do you know if you have hepatitis C? How do you get it? Can it be treated? Read on.
What is hepatitis C and how do you contract it?
Hepatitis is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. People can contract hepatitis C through any blood-to-blood contact including injection drug use (even a single episode), blood transfusions prior to 1990, participation in medical procedures or immunization in countries where hepatitis C is common, sharing personal care items (razors/nail clippers), and tattoos and piercings with improperly sterilized equipment.
How do I know if I have it?
Some symptoms of hepatitis C include fatigue, lethargy, nausea, reduced appetite, abdominal pain and jaundice. However, most people with hepatitis C have no symptoms many years after initial infection. That's why it's important to ask your doctor for a one-time blood test to see if you have been exposed to the virus. This blood test is covered by all provincial health care plans.
What can be done to treat hepatitis C?
New treatments are available that can cure the majority of people who are infected with hepatitis C. Speak with your doctor about getting tested and visit the Canadian Liver Foundation's website at www.liver.ca for more information.
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Attention editors: The Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) acknowledges Merck Canada for its support of the CLF’s campaign to raise awareness about hepatitis C as a serious liver disease and promote liver health in Canada.
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