Hepatitis

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One in thirteen Chinese Victorians are living with the chronic hepatitis B or C virus. The real tragedy is that many people living with hepatitis B or C do not know it.

It often shows no symptoms but can lead to liver damage and liver cancer if it is not treated.

Speak to your doctor and get tested today – it could save your life.

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B and C are two common types of viruses that affect the liver.   

People who have hepatitis B or hepatitis C for more than six months have ‘chronic’ hepatitis. Chronic means long-term.

Some people do not feel sick and may feel well.  However, if left unchecked or not treated some people will develop liver damage. This damage can include:

  • Swelling
  • Scarring
  • Liver cancer (a growth in the liver)

How do I get tested?

People who were born in China and their families should be tested for both hepatitis B and C. It does not matter how long you have lived in Australia, it is important to ask your doctor for a hepatitis test.

A hepatitis test is not usually included in the health checks that you need when migrating to Australia, or in a doctor’s yearly check-up. This is why it is important that you ask your doctor.

Ask your doctor for a simple hepatitis B and C blood test. Testing is usually free.

A blood test can tell you if you:

  • Have hepatitis B or C
  • Need a vaccine to protect you against hepatitis B
  • Have had a hepatitis B vaccine in the past and are protected.

If you do not have hepatitis B, get vaccinated to protect yourself and your family. The hepatitis B vaccination is free for most people.

How are hepatitis B and C treated?

People with chronic hepatitis B can lead healthy lives. Regular tests every six months and treatment when needed will help to prevent liver cancer. The treatment (tablets) keeps the virus under control, but it is not a cure. Not everyone with hepatitis B will need treatment. But everyone needs regular check-ups. 

How do you get hepatitis B or C?

Many countries across the world have large numbers of people living with chronic hepatitis B and C. Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood and sexual fluids. Hepatitis C is transmitted through blood.

How is hepatitis B spread?

  • From mother to child during childbirth
  • Through unprotected sex
  • By unsterile medical or dental procedures
  • By sharing injecting drug equipment
  • By infected blood going into the bloodstream in some other way, including unsterile tattooing.

How is hepatitis C spread?

  • By sharing injecting drug equipment
  • By unsterile medical or dental procedures
  • By infected blood going into the bloodstream in some other way, including unsterile tattooing.
  • From mother to child during childbirth
  • Through unprotected sex if there is blood present.

Hepatitis B or C cannot be spread by:

  • Sharing food, drinks and cutlery
  • Hugging and kissing
  • Shaking hands
  • Breastfeeding

How can hepatitis B and C be prevented?

The easiest way to prevent hepatitis B is vaccination. But vaccination won't protect you if you already have chronic hepatitis B. This is why testing before vaccination is important.

Hepatitis C can be prevented by avoiding blood-to-blood contact such as not sharing injecting equipment.

If you have hepatitis C, you can be cured

Treatments for hepatitis C are safe and easy to take.  Most people need to take tablets for 8 to 12 weeks. Nearly everyone who gets treated is cured. This means the virus is dead and has gone from your body.

Ask your doctor for a hepatitis B and C test today. It could save your life. 

We would like to thank the Melbourne Chinese communities for their expertise and guidance throughout the project, particularly the Bilingual Health Facilitators and Peer educators for their hard work and dedication. We would also like to thank the health professionals for their valuable advice and contributions. 

Resources

Hepatitis B resources:

Hepatitis C resources:

More information

  • Talk to your doctor
  • Speak to a nurse at Cancer Council Victoria on 13 11 20. For an interpreter call 13 14 50 first and ask for Cancer Council Victoria.
  • Visit www.hepvic.org.au or call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 703 003. For an interpreter call 13 14 50 first.
  • For information, support and referral on hepatitis call the Multicultural Health and Support Service on 03 9418 9929.