More than 218,500 Australians are living with hepatitis B. However 43% of these cases are undiagnosed as often there are no obvious symptoms. If left untreated, chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver damage, cirrhosis or liver cancer.
A new pilot by Cancer Council Victoria and the Burnet Institute aims to improve diagnosis and screening of high risk patients via GP clinics. The project is targeting patients from countries where hepatitis B is endemic including Somalia, Sudan, China and Vietnam.
The pilot includes targeted community education, GP training and an electronic reminder for GPs to test patients at risk. An electronic risk assessment survey of patients is also being trialled at a medical clinic to help identify patients from these countries.
Dr Howell from Burnet Institute said helping GPs identify patients at high risk would prompt them to test for hepatitis B, thereby reducing the spread of the disease and improving patient outcomes.
Cancer Council Victoria's Chris Enright said hepatitis B was one of the biggest known risk factors for primary liver cancer in Australia, with around 1,400 people diagnosed each year. "Early detection can halve a person's risk of getting liver cancer," she said.
On 28 July, the World Health Organisation (WHO) marked World Hepatitis Day. Its goal is to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.
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