SAULT STE. MARIE, ON (July 28, 2023) – Today marks World Hepatitis Day, which calls on people from across the globe to take action in the fight against Hepatitis. To help spread awareness, Group Health Centre’s HEP Care Program organized an event encouraging people to get tested and treated for Hepatitis C.
The event took place on the corner of Gore Street and Albert Street and allowed attendees to have one-on-one education sessions on Hepatitis C. As well as point-of-care testing with on-the-spot results.
“Having events like this in the community are more important than ever,” said Shannon Hutton, Hep Care Program Registered Nurse. “Many people aren’t aware that they might have Hepatitis C, so this gives us a chance to increase awareness and to discuss prevention, diagnosis and treatment options.”
The Hepatitis C virus is a liver infection caused by blood-to-blood contact, either through breaks in the skin or lining of the nose and mouth. Hepatitis C can be transmitted through sharing used needles or syringes meant to be used once, tattoos or piercings done with equipment that has not been sterilized properly.
Once contracted, about one in four people clear the virus on their own, and the others go on to develop a chronic infection, which requires treatment to get rid of.
“People with chronic Hepatitis C often have no symptoms and don’t feel sick,” said Hutton. “They may have it for many years before signs or symptoms develop. When symptoms do appear, it’s often a sign of advanced liver disease.”
Hepatitis C causes liver inflammation, destroys liver cells and causes scar tissue known as fibrosis. If untreated, more scar tissue can develop, which can cause cirrhosis. A condition that leaves the liver permanently damaged.
“What most people don’t realize is how important the liver is,” said Hutton. “If the liver becomes severely damaged, it won’t regenerate.”
The liver is the largest internal organ in the body and performs over 500 essential processing functions. The liver processes everything we breathe, eat, drink, inhale and inject into our bodies. GHC’s Hep Care program stressed the importance of getting tested and how vital it is to someone’s health.
“You can have Hepatitis C without knowing. That’s why testing is so important,” said Hutton. “It’s the only way a person will know if they have it. This is why we are working hard to increase public awareness and promote our testing services at GHC.”
To learn more about treatment options and the free services the HEP Care Program offers, please call 705-759-5690.
About the Group Health Centre’s HEP Care Program
The GHC Hep Care Program includes a specially trained social worker, outreach worker, two registered nurses, and a physician who helps people with Hepatitis C (and co-infected patients with Hepatitis B or HIV) get the nursing care and support they require. The goal of the Hep Care Program is to increase treatment capacity, particularly in under-serviced communities where the prevalence of Hepatitis C is high, and to improve the health of Ontarians living with Hepatitis C. Testing for Hepatitis C and HIV is provided.