A report from the Canadian Association for the Study of Liver says 250,000 Canadians within a certain age group are likely to have Hepatitis C.
Dr. Mel Krajden is the Medical Head of Hepatitis C for the BC Centre for Disease Control.
“People born after 1945 to 1975, most of the people who are infected with Hepatitis C between two thirds to three-quarters of the people who are infected are within that age group.”
The question on everybody’s minds is that if the disease was so prevalent, how come it took so long for the results to come out?
“Part of the reason is that it is an infection that was only recognized in 1989 and good tests for it only came about in the mid-1990’s and about a quarter of infections clear on their own, those individuals to know that they are infected you need to actually look for the virus itself.”
“Because some people got infected decades ago, they have lived long enough to develop the side effects of chronic Hepatitis C, which eventually slowly damages the liver and increases the chances of liver failure.”
Overall, about 75% of people who develop the infection will develop a chronic infection, which puts people at risk for long-term liver damage.
Krajden adds when it comes to the testing side of things, BC is ahead of the game.
“About 1.8 million British Columbians have been tested for Hep C and we believe that somewhere in the range of 60 to 70,000 may actually be alive at this point and infected with chronic Hepatitis C.”
“Over the past few years, Canada and the province of BC have approved and have publicly funded new drugs that are very effective in curing the virus. The cure rates are very short courses of well-tolerated therapies, so between eight to twelve weeks.”
Curative therapy can clear up to 95% of infections and over 15,000 people have been treated for Hep C in the past few years.
Northern Health recorded 147 cases of Hepatitis C in 2016.
Just under a thousand cases were recorded for men 40 years of age and up in the province during the same time period.