Viral Catch Up

Become Hep C Free …

Recently there has been a lot of attention paid to a previously ‘not-talked about’ liver disease – hepatitis C.
Once thought of as difficult to treat, and limited mainly people who inject drugs, the virus has attracted interest recently with the arrival of new, effective treatments. Hepatitis C is no longer in the too hard basket, but we know prevention is still better than cure.

Hepatitis C is a chronic disease which effects the liver.
Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver. Drinking too much alcohol is a common cause and is one of the leading causes of ‘non-viral’ hepatitis in Australia.

But, hepatitis C is caused by a virus which attacks liver cells. It’s spread by blood and you can only get it if blood of a person living with the virus comes in contact with the blood another person. This is why it is commonly known as a blood borne virus (BBV).

There are many ways that hepatitis C can be spread. Any activity that penetrates the skin such as injecting drugs, tattooing, body piercing and even contact sports creates a risk for transmission.

Sharing needles to inject illegal drugs like speed, heroin and steroids is a high risk activity, with trends in body art like tattooing, body piercing and body tanning also a risk. Always make sure that your body-artist is using sterile equipment.

The Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) was established to prevent the spread of BBVs and HIV in the community. It provides

  • sterile injecting equipment to people who inject drugs
  • education programs for clients and local services
  • safe disposal of injecting material
  • links for clients into treatment where appropriate

The NSP started in Penrith, Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and Lithgow LGAs in 1997, a response to the unfolding HIV epidemic. Since then, it’s become a key health service for preventing the spread of hepatitis C. This directory of NSW NSP outlets will help you to locate your nearest service.

About 25% of people who contract hepatitis C will automatically clear it. However, because there are few symptoms, most people who have hepatitis C will develop liver damage over a number of years. This damage can cause scarring of the liver and some people will develop liver cancer.

There are now highly effective direct acting antiviral treatments available for people who have hepatitis C. These new treatments are taken orally for 12 weeks and have a high success rate.

Take our online self assessment quiz to see if you may have been exposed to the virus, then if your result suggests you may be at risk, you should talk to your GP and get tested. If you know you are living with the virus then talk to your GP about the new treatments and how to become hep C free.

Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District