Friday, January 6, 2012

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is an infectious virus that is carried in the blood and harms the liver. About 240,000 Canadians are infected, many of whom are unaware that they even have it. The number of people with hepatitis C is increasing in Canada and around the world, primarily among those who share needles and other drug equipment. An estimated 5,000 Canadians - mostly young people - get this virus each year.
Although the hepatitis C virus has been around for a long time, it was only identified in 1989. It causes inflammation of the liver, which often progresses to cirrhosis (scarring that makes it difficult for the liver to function normally). Of the estimated 5,000 people that are newly infected each year, up to 70 percent experience no symptoms. For some, symptoms may not show up for 20 or 30 years. In the meantime, they may, unknowingly, be infecting others. That is why it is important to know if you are at risk and how to take preventative action.
If you think you have hepatitis C, or that you may be at risk, visit your doctor and ask for the simple blood test for this disease. For more information, contact a health care professional, and visit Health Canada's Web site at