New Zealanders at risk of hepatitis C should make sure to get a quick and easy finger-prick test on World Hepatitis Day this Thursday (28 July), says Dr Nick Chamberlain, National Director of the National Public Health Service here at Te Whatu Ora.
“Most people with hepatitis C can be cured by a simple oral treatment that is free with just a prescription.
“Around 40,000-45,000 New Zealanders are living with chronic hepatitis C. While some people with hepatitis C experience unusual tiredness, joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain, many people don’t notice any symptoms until irreparable damage has occurred.
“If left untreated, up to a quarter of people with hepatitis C will develop cirrhosis, which can progress to life-threatening liver cancer or liver failure,” says Dr Chamberlain.
“More than 200 New Zealanders continue to die from hepatitis C each year. Many of these deaths could have been prevented by earlier diagnosis and treatment because hepatitis C is now ‘easy test, easy cure’.
“I strongly urge anyone at risk of hepatitis C to get tested even if you don’t have any symptoms.
“There are lots of places you can get a hepatitis C finger-prick test including some pharmacies, Kaupapa Māori health providers and needle exchanges, plus there are mobile services visiting key locations. You can find out where to get a hepatitis C test by visiting the Ministry of Health website or by asking your GP.
“You’ll get your test results within minutes and they’re 100 percent confidential – no questions asked.
“If you do test positive, there’s an easy cure called Maviret that is taken orally for about 8-12 weeks. It’s free with a prescription and has a success rate of up to 98 percent.”
You are at risk of hepatitis C if you:
- have ever injected drugs or shared equipment
- have ever received a tattoo or body piercing using unsterile equipment
- had a blood product transfusion before 1992
- have ever lived in a high-risk country or received medical treatment there
- have ever been in prison
- were born to a mother with hepatitis C.