Webinar Raises Awareness About Hepatitis for World Hepatitis Day

Posted On Tuesday July 28, 2020

Each year World Hepatitis Day takes place on July 28, bringing the world together under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all World Hepatitis Day promotion and events were virtual this year. Elevate NWO is hosting an educational webinar for service providers covering how the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is transmitted and treated and how to support individuals at risk or diagnosed with it. The webinar will be recorded and shared on Elevate NWO’s Facebook page. The Thunder Bay District Health Unit, NorWest Community Health Centres, Elevate NWO, and the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy are also participating in World Hepatitis Day through information sharing on social media platforms. 

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit reported a hepatitis incidence rate of 133.4 per 100,000 of the population which is four times higher than the provincial average and the second highest incidence rate of all public health units across Ontario. It has also been noted that the highest incidence rate in Thunder Bay is among women aged 25-29 followed by men aged 30-34. Anyone who is infected can unknowingly transmit the disease, so those who think they may have been exposed should get tested. Many people do not show symptoms after infection. The risk of a hepatitis C infection increases with certain activities including: having a tattoo or piercing, now or in the past, with equipment that was shared or not sterilized properly; sharing needles or equipment or supplies for injecting or inhaling drugs, and sharing toothbrushes or razors with someone. 

“There is a simple blood test that is available from any health care provider,” said Tonya Muchano, Hepatitis C Virus & Injection Drug Use Community Developer– Elevate NWO. “For those without an Ontario Health Card, testing is available from both Elevate NWO and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.” 

Although a vaccine to protect against the disease is not available, hepatitis C can be cured. In 2017, new treatments were approved and one of the medications works against all strains of the hepatitis C virus, providing more treatment options. Left untreated, a hepatitis C infection may lead to liver failure, cancer and cirrhosis.  

Locally, treatment is available from all health care providers, with some organizations specializing in treatment including Elevate NWO, Liver Care Northwest and the OATC/Conquer Clinics. “It’s so important to stress that hepatitis C can be prevented and it can be cured,” emphasized Muchano. “If someone thinks they have been exposed, there is support available in our community.” 

Community partners shared information with the hashtag #worldhepatitisday2020 and promoted Elevate NWO’s “Blood2Blood” campaign, featuring educational comics, videos and harm reduction facts. The public is encouraged to visit the Elevate NWO Facebook page and hepcnwo.ca for more information about hepatitis C.

 

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Contact: Tonya Muchano, HCV & IDU Community Developer – Elevate NWO, 345-1516 ext. 246 tmuchano@elevatenwo.org

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