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Top five reasons to get tested for hepatitis

 
Family sitting on floor at home

Should you get tested for hepatitis? Roselyn Castaneda, a Registered Nurse and Program Coordinator for the Viral Hepatitis Program at The Ottawa Hospital thinks so.  Getting tested for hepatitis is easy, and it can help protect yourself, your family and your friends from serious health problems like liver cancer.

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a group of diseases that are usually caused by a virus.  There are six kinds of hepatitis, but the most common are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.  There are some differences, but all kind of hepatitis cause inflammation of the liver, which can lead to serious health problems.

Some surprising statistics about hepatitis

The Public Health Alliance of Canada (PHAC) estimates that 44 percent of Canadians with a hepatitis C infection are not aware of it.  The Canadian HBV network estimates that 250,000 to 460,000 Canadians have hepatitis B. 

Is there a cure for hepatitis?

There are effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis, but it is important to get tested and treated early.

Who should get tested for hepatitis?

Everyone should get tested for hepatitis.

You may be at higher risk for hepatitis if

  • you are a baby boomer (born between 1945 and 1975)
  • you are part of Canada’s Indigenous populations
  • you are an immigrant to Canada
  • you have shared drug-use equipment, even once
  • you have shared personal care items (e.g., razor or toothbrush)
  • you were exposed to blood during sexual activity
  • you had a tattoo or piercing done where non-sterile equipment is used
  • you lived in a region where hepatitis C is common
  • you received a blood transfusion or blood products before 1992

Here are our top five reasons to get tested for hepatitis:

1. You can have hepatitis and not know it

Signs and symptoms of viral hepatitis are not always easy to see or feel.  Sometimes there can be no symptoms at all.  Someone who has hepatitis can live for many years symptom-free until liver damage is severe or liver cancer is found.

2. It helps prevent liver damage and liver cancer

Getting tested for hepatitis is important because knowing your status early allows your health-care team to monitor your liver health regularly and treat it as required.

3. It helps protect your family and friends

Many people don’t know the facts about how hepatitis is transmitted. Some people think that transmission can only happen through sharing needles.  Here are some facts to consider:

  • Hepatitis A is transmitted through contaminated water or food.
  • Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with body fluid (e.g. childbirth, sexual activity). 
  • Hepatitis C is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact (e.g. sharing razors or toothbrushes). 
Older man and woman dance together.
Baby boomers and people with other risk factors should get tested for hepatitis. 

Hepatitis is NOT spread by

  • hugging your loved ones
  • sharing utensils
  • sharing the bathroom
  • sitting next to someone who has hepatitis

4. It helps end the stigma and discrimination

Getting tested for hepatitis—and encouraging your friends to get tested, too—helps make it a normal part of protecting your overall health. Knowing the facts about hepatitis also helps stop false and misleading information from spreading.

5. You can help advance life-saving research

The Ottawa Hospital is conducting cutting-edge research to improve our understanding of hepatitis C and develop better treatments. If you test positive for hepatitis, talk to your doctor about how you can be involved in research that could change the world.

Where to get tested for hepatitis in Ottawa

You can get screened for hepatitis though your family doctor, an Ottawa Public Health Sexual Health Clinic, or any walk-in clinic. Please ask to be screened for hepatitis as this may not be a part of a regular check-up.

About The Ottawa Hospital and Regional Hepatitis Program

Lead by Dr. Curtis Cooper, Director of the program, researcher, associate professor at the University of Ottawa and renowned infection disease specialist,  The Ottawa Hospital and Regional Hepatitis Program is made up of are a team of doctors,  nurses,  social workers,   psychologists and administrative assistants who specialize in caring for patients with viral hepatitis.

We provide compassionate,  low-barrier care and work closely with our community partners within Ottawa and surrounding areas to deliver our services.  Through the Ontario Telemedicine Network we connect to patients who live in rural areas from Cornwall to Barry’s Bay using virtual care.  Our outreach services also provide non-judgemental care to patients within our community who struggle with marginalization and other social barriers.

Learn more about hepatitis

 
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This website gives you common facts, advice and tips. Some of it may not apply to you. Please talk to your doctor, nurse or other health-care team member to see if this information will work for you. They can also answer your questions and concerns.