Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada: Word Hepatitis Day
July, 28, 2020 - Ottawa, ON - Public Health Agency of Canada
Today, on World Hepatitis Day, I want to raise awareness about viral hepatitis—a preventable, treatable, and in the case of hepatitis C, curable disease that affects the lives of thousands of people living in Canada each year.
In Canada, I am pleased to see that rates of hepatitis B are declining. However, I remain concerned about the increasing rates of hepatitis C. Despite recent advances in effective hepatitis C treatment, up to 246,000 people in Canada are living with chronic hepatitis C, and approximately 44% of them are unaware that they are infected.
Just as we have seen in the COVID-19 pandemic, certain populations have disproportionately experienced the harms caused by hepatitis C. In particular, Indigenous populations and prison populations experience hepatitis C at higher rates than the general public. And while men are more likely to be infected compared to women, infection rates are rising twice as quickly among women. Equally worrisome is the rise in hepatitis C infections among people between the ages of 30-39 and 60 years and older. Our collective response needs to address underlying factors such as stigma and discrimination that prevent people from getting the treatment and on-going care they need.
People who are at greater risk of hepatitis infection include those who have shared drug-use equipment, even once; had a tattoo or piercing done with non-sterile equipment; shared personal care items like toothbrushes or razors; been exposed to blood during sexual activity; or were born to a mother with hepatitis C.
Early diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis can lead to better health outcomes. Being well-informed about viral hepatitis is the first step. Hepatitis A and B are types of viral hepatitis that are preventable by vaccination. While there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, it can be cured with effective treatment. Speak with your health care provider to make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date, and to get information on hepatitis prevention, testing and treatment.
Join us in raising global awareness and let’s beat hepatitis!
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