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Hepatitis

The liver is an important organ in the human body. It fights infections, cleans toxins (poisons) from the blood, digests food and more. “Hepatitis” means literally “inflammation of the liver.” Hepatitis can lead to serious liver disease.

Although there are many forms of hepatitis, the most common types are caused by viruses: hepatitis A, B and C.

The World Health Organization estimates that between 130 and 170 million people are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus.

More than 350,000 people die every year worldwide from hepatitis C-related liver disease.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, an estimated 242,500 individuals are infected with hepatitis C in Canada, 21 per cent of whom don’t know they are infected.

Please see the poster or the booklet for a map featuring locations in Whitehorse where you can obtain more information and testing for hepatitis.

The Facts

The World Health Organization estimates that between 130 and 170 million people are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus. More than 350,000 people die every year worldwide from hepatitis C-related liver disease.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, an estimated 242,500 individuals are infected with hepatitis C in Canada, 21 per cent of whom don’t know they are infected.

Things we know about hepatitis C infection:

  • 80 per cent of individuals infected with hepatitis C will develop chronic liver problems. Two of the most serious complications are:
    • Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver); and
    • Liver cancer (three per cent of clients with hepatitis C are at risk for liver cancer);
  • Hepatitis C is a silent disease for most individuals; often there are no signs, but the infected person can still pass the infection on.
  • Alcohol and drug use aggravate the damage done to the liver by the hepatitis C virus.
  • Any form of blood-to-blood contact is a high risk to acquire or transmit hepatitis C.

HEPATITIS A

TRANSMISSION: Eating or drinking contaminated food/drink; not a chronic infection

PREVENTION: Vaccination, careful hand washing

TREATMENT: No treatment is necessary

HEPATITIS B

While 90 per cent of those who get hepatitis B will clear the infection and become immune, it can become a chronic infection in about 10 per cent of infected people, and can lead to serious liver disease.

TRANSMISSION: Sexual contact, blood, bodily fluids

PREVENTION: Vaccination, avoiding blood-to-blood contact, practicing safer sex

TREATMENT: Only 10 per cent of infected individuals will need medical assessment and may need treatment

HEPATITIS C

Hepatitis C is the most common type of hepatitis in Yukon.

TRANSMISSION: Blood

PREVENTION: Avoiding blood-to-blood contact, including not sharing any personal care items or drug paraphernalia; there is NO vaccine.

TREATMENT: Treatment available upon consultation with a specialist

Prevention

The following steps will help reduce your chances of getting infected with hep C or infecting others:

  • Be wary of using equipment that might have come in contact with someone else’s blood, i.e., sharing drug equipment. This includes snorting, or using a crack pipe.
  • Have your own personal care items that might have blood on them — such as toothbrushes razors and nail clippers — and not sharing them with others
  • Never pick up an abandoned syringe with your bare hands.
  • Use precautions every time you handle bloody materials, including lancets used for blood sugar testing
  • Be aware that alcohol and drug use can cause further liver damage. Using those substances reduces our inhibitions, and can lead to poor decision making. High risk exposure to hepatitis C often occurs while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Detection

Most individuals infected with hepatitis C have few or no symptoms.

The only way to detect the infection is with a blood test. Despite the lack of symptoms, a chronic infection can still damage the liver.

When an individual has symptoms of a hepatitis infection, they may have one or many of the following:

  • fever,
  • loss of appetite,
  • nausea,
  • abdominal pain,
  • and jaundice (yellowish colour of the skin and eyes).

Treatment

There is treatment for Hep C, and it’s getting better all the time — more and more people are finishing treatment and getting rid of the virus.

Yukoners can be assessed and treated through Yukon Communicable Disease Control (YCDC) and the Infectious Diseases visiting specialist in Whitehorse.

Clients do not have to leave the territory for care (some clients who are too sick to be treated will have to leave the territory for care).

Talk to your doctor or nurse about hepatitis C follow up.

Statistics

For its population size, Yukon has a higher than expected number of hepatitis C cases. This may reflect our aggressive testing program, which encourages anybody who may be at risk to get tested, free of charge.

Hepatitis testing is available, accessible and free in all Yukon communities.

  • Similar to Canadian statistics, 65 per cent of Yukon individuals infected with hepatitis C likely acquired the infection from past or present drug use. The remainder have had other form of blood to blood contact.
  • Since 1994, 775 cases of hepatitis C have been diagnosed in Yukon.
  • 43 per cent of the hepatitis C-infected clients in Yukon have been assessed by the Infectious Disease Specialist in Whitehorse.
  • 127 clients have received treatment, with an expected success rate of 70 per cent.

It is better to know about the infection, so we can make informed choices. It’s important to start a conversation in Yukon about liver health and hepatitis C.

We need to reduce the transmission and disease progression of hepatitis C.

Talk to your health care provider about hepatitis C.
Testing is available at all health care centres except the Whitehorse Health Centre.
In Whitehorse, you can obtain testing through your doctor, Yukon Communicable Disease Control, and Kwanlin Dün Health Centre.

Tips for a Healthier Liver

The Canadian Liver Foundation offers a list of tips to LIVERight and keep our livers healthy.

We don’t have the space to reproduce them here, but we encourage you to visit www.liver.ca/liver-health/liver-diseaseprevention/ tips-for-healthy-liver/for excellent information on the following topics related to liver disease:

  • Healthy home
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Travel
  • Nutrition and exercise
  • Drug safety
  • Pampering your body
  • Safe sex
  • Liver health for youth

Local Resources

Yukon Communicable Disease Control

#4 Hospital Rd., Whitehorse (YCDC)
Whitehorse area: 667-8323
Communities: 1-800-661-0408, extension 8323

Yukon College camp us clinic in Whitehorse:

Offers Blood-STI testing/treatment, immunizations, emergency birth control, condoms and pregnancy testing: Mondays — 9:00 am to 3:00 pm
Confidential testing available Monday – Friday, 8:30 am to 4:00 pm
Appointments available in the mornings. Drop-in between 12:30 pm and 4:00 pm
C1122 in Wellness Room (next to campus bookstore)
Call 667-5080 or drop in during clinic hours

Blood Ties Four Directions

Provides support to those living with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, and those at high risk. Drop-in centre with counselling, housing navigator and naturopathy. Needle exchange and harm reduction. Prevention workshops available across the territory. Wednesday afternoons, 1:00 to 3:00 pm, meal program and outreach nurse with STI testing available.
Monday – Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (closed for lunch between noon – 1 pm)
307 Strickland Street
Whitehorse, YT Y1A 2J9
Phone: (867) 633-2437
Toll-free: 1-877-333-2437
http://www.bloodties.ca/

Kwanlin Dün Health Centre

Monday – Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
53 McClimon Crescent, Whitehorse
Phone: (867) 668-7289

Natsékhi Kü Healing House

Counselling, referral and support: Monday – Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
(closed for lunch between noon – 1 pm)
53 McClimmon Crescent, Whitehorse
Hepatitis in Yukon 7

Outreach Van

Counselling, support and referral services to Blood Ties and YCDC; harm reduction equipment; education; food and clothing.

The Downtown Outreach Clinic

Operates out of the Salvation Army between Third and Fourth Avenue.
Weekly outreach clinic: information on hepatitis, support and referrals; wound care; immunizations; foot care; nursing assessments and treatments; health promotion and harm reduction education; advocacy; assistance navigating the health care system and referrals.
Wednesdays, 11:00 am to 3:00 pm
311B Black Street, Whitehorse, YT Y1A 2N1

Alcohol and Drug Services

  • 24-hour medically supported detoxification program for safe withdrawal
  • The Outreach YCDC nurse provides blood and STI testing to clients on site
  • Outpatient/Inpatient Treatment
  • Prevention services provides information on substances and strategies on how to quit or reduce substance use to prevent further harm and/or support someone still using

6118 Sixth Avenue, Whitehorse
Whitehorse area: 667-5777
Communities: 1-800-661-0408, extension 5777
Help Line: 1-866-980-9099
adsprevention@gov.yk.ca

Community Health Centres

Information, testing and monitoring

  • Dial prefix of your community + 4444
  • Watson Lake 536-7483

Online Resources

Documents

Contact info

Yukon Communicable Disease Control

Sexually transmitted infections confidential testing
Monday to Friday
Appointments – 8:30am to noon
Drop-in – 12:30pm to 4:00pm

TB testing by appointment

Phone: 867-667-8323

Toll Free (Yukon, Nunavut and NWT); 1-800-661-0408 ext. 8323

Fax: 867-667-8349

Mailing Address:

Yukon Communicable Disease Control (4 HospRd)
Health & Social Services, Government of Yukon
Box 2703
Whitehorse, Yukon  Y1A 2C6

Location: 4 Hospital Road | Whitehorse, YT [map]

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