Hepatitis C rate 'will soar'|
LOUISE TRECCASI, MEDICAL REPORTER
October 03, 2006 11:15pm
THE rate of hepatitis C and liver disease in South Australia is expected
to double within the next decade unless urgent action is taken to curb
the growing epidemic, a health group warns.
Hepatitis C Council of South Australia acting manager Kerry Patterson
said yesterday "we need to take control and remove the barriers to
accessing treatment". Every week, about 200 people are diagnosed with
the virus in Australia. A national report, released yesterday, shows
17,200 South Australians have been exposed to hepatitis C, with 630
estimated to have been exposed last year. The current rate of infection
in SA is 1.5 per cent of the population.
Hundreds, however, may be unaware they have the highly contagious virus,
which is transmitted by blood.
Ms Patterson said the virus, which could lead to liver cancer, was the
number one reason for liver transplants. "The rate of hepatitis C and
related liver disease will only double in South Australia in the next
five to 10 years," she said at the launch of Hepatitis C Awareness Week.
Health Minister John Hill said hepatitis C was the "most commonly
notified infectious disease in Australia".
"It is essential that people living with hepatitis C have information
and support to make informed decisions on the management and treatment
of their condition," Mr Hill said.
SA is the only state without a hepatitis C strategy but Mr Hill said the
Government was "committed to developing and endorsing a South Australian
action plan based on the priorities identified in the National Hepatitis
C Strategy 2005-08".
Mother-of-two Lynn Newman said discrimination and lack of information
made taking personal control of her hepatitis C difficult.
Mrs Newman was diagnosed in 1997 and is still unsure how she contracted
the disease. "I began to hate myself and feared if I had infected my
children or my husband," she said. "I developed liver cancer and two
years ago had a liver transplant."
Mrs Newman said the disease was not "anything to be ashamed of". "You're
not doing yourself any good if you don't take responsibility and it's
really worth getting checked out and getting treatment," she said.
Most cases are a result of injecting drug use while other causes include
unsterile tattooing, sharing of toothbrushes and razors and mother-baby