Hepatitis B and C
The South Western Sydney region has the 2nd highest number of notifications for Hepatitis B in NSW, particularly high in Fairfield and Bankstown. It also has the 4th highest number of notifications for Hepatitis C. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people living with chronic hepatitis B in Australia, are undiagnosed and without appropriate monitoring and treatment, one in four people with chronic hepatitis B will die of liver cancer or liver failure. 80% of the rapidly increasing rate of primary liver cancer in NSW is associated with chronic viral hepatitis.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis refers to a disease that may result in inflammation of the liver. The most common types of hepatitis are hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Hepatitis B (hep B) is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. The virus attaches to healthy liver cells and multiplies there which triggers the body’s immune system. It is estimated that 225,000 Australians are chronically infected with hep B. Those with the greatest risk of having hepatitis B include migrants from areas where hepatitis B is widespread including Asia, Africa, Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as Indigenous Australians, people who participate in high risk sexual activity and people who inject drugs.
Hepatitis B infection can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer or liver failure if it is not diagnosed and managed. People are often unaware they have been infected with hepatitis B as there are not rarely any symptoms in its early stages.
Hepatitis C (hep C) is also an infection of the liver caused by a virus, however, unlike hepatitis B, you can not develop immunity to hep C. This means if you have been diagnosed then treated for Hep C successfully, you may be re-infected. It is estimated that 233,000 Australians are living with Hepatitis C.
Visit Hepatitis Australia for more information, treatment options, news and events.
What Causes Hepatitis?
Hepatitis B however is often transferred though bodily fluids, particularly during sex .Both hepatitis B & C can be transmitted by blood to blood contact with and infected person. This transmission can occur in a few ways including the sharing of needles or equipment (tattooing needles, equipment used to inject drugs), through infected blood products or passed on from mother to child.
Hepatitis B is NOT spread by contaminated food or water, and cannot be spread through casual or social contact such as kissing, sneezing or coughing, hugging or eating food prepared by a person with hepatitis B.
Both are treatable with medication where people with Hepatitis B or C usually live a long and healthy life.
If you think there is a chance you may have contracted Hepatitis B or C, talk to your GP about testing options.
- Hepatitis Australia. Available from: http://www.hepatitisaustralia.com
Population Health Needs Assessment for communities of South Western Sydney and the Southern Highlands South Western Sydney Medicare Local November 2014