World Hepatitis Day
World Hepatitis Day was celebrated globally on Wednesday 28 July. The theme was 'Hepatitis Can’t Wait', with a person dying every 30 seconds from a hepatitis related illness – even in the current COVID-19 crisis – we can’t wait to act on viral hepatitis www.worldhepatitisday.org
The day is a celebration of the progress that has been made in viral hepatitis elimination and a chance for the general public, the affected community, medical professionals and policy makers to come together to call for the elimination of this disease.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection which is spread through blood-to-blood contact and affects the liver. It can lead to inflammation, liver cancer and liver failure if left untreated.
It is estimated that about 45,000 New Zealanders currently have the hepatitis C virus and only half have been diagnosed. This is because hepatitis C can remain asymptomatic for decades.
The biggest challenge with this silent viral killer is to find those people who don’t know they have the disease and get them treated and cured.
Who is at increased risk of hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is transmitted by blood-to-blood activities that pierce the skin. You may be at increased risk if you have:
- ever injected drugs
- ever received a tattoo or body piercing using unsterile equipment
- had a blood transfusion before 1992
- ever lived or received medical treatment in a high-risk country (South East Asia, Eastern Europe, Indian subcontinent and Middle East)
- ever been in prison
- been born to a mother living with hepatitis C or lived with someone who has had hepatitis C
The most common way of getting hepatitis C is through activities related to intravenous drug use. So if you have ever injected, even if it was only once back in the day, you should get tested.
Health professionals who have come in contact with infected blood will also be at risk and should get tested.
It does not matter how you got Hep C. What is important is getting cured so can get on with your life.
What are the symptoms?
If you have hepatitis C, you may have:
- unusual tiredness or fatigue
- joint pain
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain.
Many people with hepatitis C have no symptoms. A blood test will confirm whether or not you have hepatitis C.
Can hepatitis C be treated?
There is no vaccine, however, the virus can be cured within eight weeks with treatment that is easy to take.
PHARMAC is funding a new hep C treatment, Maviret, which is FREE and has the potential to cure more than 98% of infections.
Hepatitis C Pop-up testing clinics
Over a thousand finger prick tests have been completed at more than 20 different venues and events including Americarna, A&P shows, Sir Pomare Day and Urenui Rodeo. Through this we have found, treated and cured a number of people with Hepatitis C.
Keep an eye out here for free Pop-up testing clinic locations
Taranaki Hepatitis C Action Network
Taranaki DHB is committed to eradicating Hepatitis C virus from the Taranaki community by 2030.This is a global commitment and part of a World Health Organisation (WHO) goal.
Since 2018, The Taranaki Hepatitis C Action Network, a multisector group of health partners from primary, secondary and community care services, has been working to Find, Test, Treat and Cure people living in the Taranaki community.
Part of this work is holding pop-up testing clinics at a large range of venues to support raising awareness about this virus.
For more information or request for a pop-clinic clinic contact:
Te Manawa Taki Community Hepatitis C Service is a FREE mobile service covering the five Midland District Health Boards.
The service uses a ‘one stop shop’ approach to reduce patient visits within the health sector. Clinics are held in the community, so those with hepatitis C feel comfortable attending. Locations may include needle exchanges and community centres.
The Te Manawa Taki Community Hepatitis C Service provides education to communities and providers; instant FREE testing to see if you have been exposed to hepatitis C, a FibroScan, which measures liver stiffness if needed. You can even be treated for free via the service.
Confidential chat on 0800 195 115
Taranaki DHB Hepatology service
This service is for people who may have advanced liver disease or cirrhosis from hepatitis. People with advanced liver disease from hep C can still be treated but will require long term surveillance follow up. Specialist liver doctors and nurses will organize regular monitoring with ultrasound imaging and blood tests.
Gastroenterologists together with hepatology nurse support the liver care in these cases.
Hepatitis C National Action Plan
World Hepatitis Day, 28 July 2021, will also see the launch of the National Hepatitis C Action Plan for Aotearoa New Zealand. The Action Plan sets out how New Zealand will eliminate hepatitis C as a major public health threat by 2030.
This plan hopes to support more opportunities to raise awareness and understanding of this infection, provide increased prevention and harm reduction strategies and, increase testing and screening of people in New Zealand allowing barrier free access to care.
For more information:
Hepatitis B is also a contagious virus that affects the liver. It is passed on through close contact with blood and other body fluids from an infected person, eg, from cuts and scratches, sharing toothbrushes, and sex without a condom.
Hepatitis B can also be passed on from pregnant women to their babies, usually at birth. If you're pregnant and have hepatitis B, your baby can be given special antibodies to protect them.
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis B. In most cases, your immune system will clear the infection.
Immunisation against Hepatitis B
All children in New Zealand can be immunised against hepatitis B as part of their free childhood immunisations at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months old.
For more information:
Last updated: Tuesday, July 20, 2021