National Hepatitis C Survey Prompts Call for All Canadian Boomers to Get Tested

Jan 29, 2013, 07:00 ET from Canadian Liver Foundation

Information gaps may be compromising optimal diagnosis and treatment

TORONTO, Jan. 29, 2013 /CNW/ - Current realities of chronic hepatitis C in Canada and results of a new national survey of physicians and Canadians on awareness of the liver disease, have prompted the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) to urge general practitioners (GPs) to immediately begin recommending a one-time blood test for all adults born between 1945 and 1975.

"We know that risk-based testing has not been effective in identifying all infected adults, and most physicians surveyed agree they do not screen enough patients for hepatitis C," said Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman of the CLF and hepatologist at Toronto General Hospital. "Given that today's treatments can cure a majority of those infected, it's time to be proactive at identifying chronic hepatitis C in the age group with the highest prevalence. The hepatitis C antibody test is inexpensive and is covered by all provincial health care plans."

According to the survey, conducted by Ipsos Reid, 83 per cent of GPs agree that patients would benefit from more routine screening. GPs also admit to having a limited understanding of the disease and its treatment. Only 35 per cent feel they know a lot about symptoms and nearly four in 10 (38 per cent) feel they know nothing at all or not much about available treatments. More than half (57 per cent) are unaware that hepatitis C can be cured.

Focus on Boomers

While anyone can be exposed to hepatitis C, Canadian data show that chronic hepatitis C is most pervasive among those born between 1945 and 1975.1 Baby boomers are up to five times more likely to be infected by hepatitis C than other adults.2 Yet Canadian boomers are less likely than younger generations to have been tested, according to the survey. Additionally, boomers claim to be the most knowledgeable generation about hepatitis C, but scores from the survey show they know the least.

"Hepatitis C is a silent disease, meaning often symptoms don't appear for many years until the liver is severely damaged," said Dr. Marc Bilodeau, hepatologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at Université de Montréal. "The large number of people infected, the asymptomatic nature of the disease and the serious consequences associated with it justify broader testing. The good news is nearly all Canadians would accept being tested if suggested by their doctor."

The CLF extended the recommendation for testing beyond the boomer generation, taking into account immigration from countries where hepatitis C is more widespread and common.

While nine in 10 Canadians believe that someone can have hepatitis C and not know it, this is not leading to testing. In fact, while over 300,000 Canadians are living with chronic hepatitis C and an estimated 71,000 Canadians are living with HIV,3 more are being tested for HIV/AIDS (32 per cent) than hepatitis C (23 per cent) according to the survey.

Survey Design and Methodology

The results of the survey, completed in September 2012, are based on 1,000 online interviews conducted nationally with adults over the age of 18 and 300 online interviews with GPs. The sample was generated by Ipsos Reid's Canadian Online Panel to reflect the Census data for Canadian adults and the national distribution of Canadian GPs.4

With the given sample size, the poll is accurate within +/- 3.5 percentage points for all Canadians and +/- 6.5 percentage points for all GPs, 19 times out of 20 had the entire adult population and all GPs been polled.5

The survey was conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of the Canadian Liver Foundation. The Canadian Liver Foundation acknowledges Merck Canada for its support of the Canadian Liver Foundation's campaign to raise awareness of hepatitis C as a serious liver disease and promote liver health.

About Hepatitis

Hepatitis C is a serious and potentially fatal liver disease. More than 300,000 people in Canada are living with chronic hepatitis C but many are unaware of it.6 It can take decades after individuals are infected for symptoms to appear.7 Undiagnosed and untreated chronic hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure or the need for a liver transplant.8

People can contract hepatitis C through any blood-to-blood contact including injection drug use (even a single episode), blood transfusions prior to 1990, participation in medical procedures or immunization in countries where hepatitis C is common, sharing personal care items (razors/nail clippers), and tattoos and piercings with improperly sterilized equipment.9

The CLF is encouraging GPs to learn more about screening and testing for hepatitis C. Tools to help physicians screen, diagnose and treat hepatitis C are available at http://www.liver.ca/liver-education-liver-research/resources-health-professionals/. Canadians looking for more information on hepatitis C can also visit the CLF website at www.liver.ca/hepatitis.

About the Canadian Liver Foundation

Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the CLF was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Through its chapters across the country, the CLF strives to promote liver health, improve public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raise funds for research and provide support to individuals affected by liver disease.

An Audio News Release is available here:

B-roll is available here:

A short video on boomers and hepatitis C is available here:

References

1 Canadian Liver Foundation. http://www.liver.ca/support-liver-foundation/advocate/clf-position-statements/hepatitis_C_testing.aspx. Accessed January 4, 2013.
2 Chronic Hepatitis C: Why Baby Boomers Should Get Tested. www.cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis/Media/PDFs/FactSheet-Boomers.pdf. Accessed January 4, 2013.
3 UNAIDS. http://www.unaids.org/en/dataanalysis/datatools/aidsinfo/. Accessed on January 4, 2013.
4 Ipsos Reid. http://www.ipsos.com/.
5 Ibid.
6 Canadian Liver Foundation. http://www.liver.ca/hepatitis/hepatitis-c.aspx. Accessed January 4, 2013.
7 Health Canada. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/diseases-maladies/hepc-eng.php. Accessed January 4, 2013.
8 Public Health Agency of Canada. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hepc/pubs/multiling-hepc/index-eng.php. Accessed January 4, 2013.
9 Canadian Liver Foundation. http://www.liver.ca/liver-disease/types/viral_hepatitis/Hepatitis_C.aspx. Accessed January 4, 2013.



SOURCE Canadian Liver Foundation