People are being urged during Hepatitis Week to take a test for the disease.
People are being urged during Hepatitis Week to take a test for the disease. Cathy Adams

A successful cure for a common disease

ALMOST 400,000 Australians are estimated to be living with hepatitis despite studies indicating cure rates for Hep-C now exceed 75% across the country.

As part of New South Wales Hepatitis Awareness Week, people living with hepatitis B or C are being urged to consider their treatment options.

"Now is the right time for people who may have been living with hepatitis C for years, or even decades, to visit their doctor to get a referral to have their liver health assessed," Hepatitis New South Wales Chief Executive Officer Stuart Loveday said.

"This will help them decide whether they should go onto treatment sooner rather than later.

"With the listing of new treatments on the PBS in April, almost all people in Australia living with hepatitis C have cure rates of around 75 per cent to 80%.

"Treatment is especially important to help reduce the impact of both hepatitis B and hepatitis C on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, a group that is disproportionately affected by both viruses compared to the non-Aboriginal community," Mr Loveday said.

There are estimated to be more than 226,000 people in Australia living with chronic hepatitis C and 170,000 people with chronic hepatitis B.

Chronic hepatitis C can cause cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.

About 20% of patients develop cirrhosis within 10 to 20 years of the onset of infection.

Liver failure from chronic hepatitis C is one of the most common reasons for liver transplants.

Mid North Coast Local Health District Manager of HIV and Related Programs, Jenny Heslop said there's still a lot of ground to be made even though blood donor screening, Hepatitis B vaccinations and the Needle Syringe Program have minimised rates of transmission.

"Although there are new and effective treatments available for people with hepatitis C available across many centres on the Mid and North Coasts, treatment uptake rates for hepatitis C are very low," Ms Heslop said.

"Not many people in the community know that hepatitis C can be treated and in many cases cured, allowing people to live healthy virus free lives," she said.



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