Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on July 28, 2022
July 28, 2022Ottawa, ONPublic Health Agency of Canada
Each July 28, we mark World Hepatitis Day and come together to raise awareness on viral hepatitis and of the need for action to eliminate it. Today, we recognize and celebrate all of the progress that has been made and also address the current challenges.
Globally, viral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death, accounting for 134 million deaths per year — more than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria. The most common hepatitis-related viruses in Canada are A, B, and C. Hepatitis A and hepatitis B are vaccine preventable, and hepatitis C is curable with highly effective treatment.
Since the introduction of the hepatitis A vaccine in Canada in 1996 for people at increased risk of infection, the incidence of this disease has declined and the overall risk to the public is low. Although the vaccine is not part of routine immunization programs in Canada, regional immunization programs such as in Quebec may recommend it. Acute hepatitis B rates in Canada are also low, and chronic hepatitis B rates have trended downwards since 2010. Hepatitis B is also a vaccine preventable disease and is part of routine vaccination programs throughout Canada.
More than 200,000 people in Canada are living with chronic hepatitis C and nearly half may not know they're infected. Risk factors include shared drug use equipment, having a tattoo or piercing done with non-sterile equipment, exposure to blood during sexual activity or having lived in a region where hepatitis C is common. A blood test is the only way to know if you've been exposed to hepatitis C.
The Government of Canada is committed to eliminating hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI) as public health threats by 2030. We are working with and supporting community-based organizations, Indigenous partners, provinces and territories, researchers, and the health sector to prevent new infections and reduce the impact of viral hepatitis and other STBBI.
Despite the challenges we've all faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, many community organizations and service providers across the country continue to work tirelessly to reach those affected by hepatitis, and lead change by challenging the stigma and discrimination within our health systems and communities. I am so inspired and grateful for the work they do. We must continue to support their work through our own individual actions to address stigma.
Testing for hepatitis is critical to stopping the spread of the virus. It helps ensure that people with hepatitis infection have access to the appropriate treatment, care and support and that those who test negative can access prevention services. Talk to a health care provider to find out if you should be tested for hepatitis. If we all take action, we can help to meet our global goal of eliminating viral hepatitis as a global health threat by 2030. For more information on hepatitis please see these awareness resources.
Public Health Agency of Canada
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