July 28 is World Hepatitis Day, an occasion to celebrate the strides in treating and — lo and behold — curing, those who suffer from hepatitis C.
With advancements in therapies, not only are we curing the disease, global elimination is now possible. This past May 28, close to 200 member countries of the World Health Organization, including Canada, made a historic pledge to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.
If governments remain committed we will witness one of the greatest current global public health threats eliminated in our lifetime.
The HCV virus has been a scourge. A recent study by the United States Centre for Disease Control found annual hepatitis C-related mortality in 2013 surpassed the total combined deaths from 60 other reported infectious diseases including HIV, pneumococcal disease and tuberculosis.
The group most impacted — some 60,000 in B.C. — are baby boomers born from 1945 to 1965. Many have lived with the infection for many years but have not gone for testing because they do not believe themselves at risk.
The hep C virus can cause damage for decades without symptoms, and can lead to liver cancer, irreversible liver failure as well as neurological and gastrointestinal issues.
A new study this year by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and the US Centre for Disease Control found peak infection for baby boomers occurred in those who were aged five in 1950, infected by inadequately sterilized needles used in health care settings.
This data proved inaccurate earlier assumptions that those most at risk were sixties-era young people who engaged in high risk sex or drug use.
The good news is, oral medications available since 2014 make elimination of hepatitis C an increasingly achievable goal. These drugs represent a huge leap forward in combating this disease for thousands of people, including me. Treatments can take less than three... more ››