World Hepatitis Day – July 28, 2018

In the world today, approximately 300 million individuals are living with hepatitis, unaware of the severe liver damage that is occurring within their own body . There are many types of hepatitis that exist, type A, B and C being the most common. The most prevalent type of hepatitis affecting the vulnerable population served by CUPS is hepatitis C. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C which, left untreated, can become chronically scarred, leading to cirrhosis and eventually liver cancer.

It is a common misconception that only individuals using illicit drugs and those having unprotected sex are at risk for acquiring hepatitis C. However, hepatitis C can also be transmitted through blood transfusions before 1989, the sharing of needles, unprofessional tattoos/piercings, and sharing personal care items such as razors and toothbrushes that have come into contact with another person’s blood. In order to prevent someone from becoming infected with hepatitis C, individuals should avoid the risk factors listed above as well as direct exposure to blood and blood products. These measures, along with frequent screening can reduce the amount of individuals in populations suffering from hepatitis C.

Due to the stigma surrounding hepatitis, many people will fail to get tested. As a result, individuals can live with this virus for many decades without feeling ill. However, over time liver damage interferes with the proper functioning of the body. The liver is responsible for more than 500 vital functions including, but not limited to, assisting the body in fighting infections, breaking down toxins and blood clotting . Therefore, living with undiagnosed hepatitis C can have long lasting negative impacts on an individual’s quality of life.

CUPS Liver Clinic works to eliminate stigma and provides a welcoming and judgement-free environment for individuals to get tested for hepatitis. The Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver suggests that all Canadians born between 1945-1975 should be tested for hepatitis C. The current success rate of treatment is 95% and, within 8-12 weeks, those infected with hepatitis C can be cured. Through screening and treatment, the CUPS Liver Clinic supports positive health outcomes. In addition to helping those who already have hepatitis, the CUPS Liver Clinic also offers the valuable service of prevention through education.

According to the World Health Organization, every year 399,000 preventable deaths occur worldwide due to hepatitis C. Dr. Gisela Macphail, an Infectious Disease Specialist at CUPS says, “hepatitis C is actually the leading infectious cause of death in Alberta. It’s preventable and treatable. Love your liver. Get it tested .” Everyday, through the work of the CUPS Liver Clinic, CUPS works to decrease the number of individuals living with hepatitis in our community. At CUPS we believe that everyone deserves the right to quality of life, which begins with proper health and happy livers.

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