Hamilton Myths About Hepatitis In Canada

(NC)-Hepatitis A and B are not just travellers diseases, they can travel to you right here in Canada. Dr. Morris Sherman, a medical advisor for the Canadian Liver Foundation, debunks the myths about hepatitis A and B and offers advice on how you and your family can avoid contracting these serious liver diseases.

Q: What are hepatitis A and B, and how common are they in Canada?

Hepatitis A and B are serious liver diseases with potentially serious consequences. Hepatitis A is found in the feces of infected people and is usually spread by ingesting contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B is transmitted through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person; hepatitis B is much more infectious than HIV. Symptoms of hepatitis A and B include jaundice, nausea, fatigue, and fever.

In Canada, between 1990 and 2004 the number of reported hepatitis A cases varied from over 3,500 to less than 400. As the infection can be present without symptoms, there is likely significant under-diagnosis and under-reporting. In fact, the actual number of hepatitis A cases in Canada is estimated to be at least 10 times higher than the reported statistics. With regard to hepatitis B, about 8,000 people were diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B in 2007 and less than 1,000 acute hepatitis B cases are reported each year.

Q: How could I get hepatitis A or B in Canada, and what can I do to protect myself?

Hepatitis A and B are not as prevalent in Canada as they are in other parts of the world. However, there are still many ways in which the diseases can be unknowingly spread in Canada.

Hepatitis A can be contracted in Canada through:

  • Eating contaminated foods or drinks;
  • Eating foods or drinks handled by infected food-service workers;
  • Coming in close contact with infected friends or family members who may have picked up the disease while travelling abroad;
  • More than 25% of cases have no identifiable risk factor.

Hepatitis B can be contracted in Canada through:

  • Sexual contact with new partners;
  • Activities that can cause contact with infected blood through unsterilized tools used in manicures, pedicures, body piercings, and tattoos;
  • Rare instances where lapses in sterilization procedures at dental offices and hospitals result in exposure to the hepatitis B virus;
  • Being exposed to wounds, blood, or secretions from infected persons when giving or receiving first aid;
  • Almost one-third of infections have no identified risk factors.

You and your family can avoid contracting hepatitis A and B by getting vaccinated against both diseases

  • Talk to your doctor to find out what vaccines may be right for you
  • It is also a good idea to adopt strong hygiene practices such as washing your hands before preparing or eating foods, thoroughly scrubbing fresh produce before eating, and avoiding sharing grooming products like toothbrushes or nail files
  • For more information on hepatitis risks and how to avoid them, speak with your doctor or visit www.liver.ca.

    - News Canada

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