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Positive figures show rise in hepatitis awareness

People with hepatitis B need regular monitoring, and new data shows awareness of this is on the rise. 

The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand supports people living with hepatitis and educates them on the need for six-monthly blood tests. Our latest figures show the message is getting through: in July 2019 we received 398 blood test results. From July 1-21 this year that number had increased to 864. The total number of blood tests received in 2019 was 5693. This year that figure has been exceeded already, with 8447 received in just seven months.  

Hepatitis Foundation clinician Dr Alex Lampen-Smith says people with hepatitis B often have no symptoms, so they could have severe liver damage before they start to feel ill and are diagnosed. “Without regular monitoring there’s no way of knowing how their bodies are coping.  Six-monthly blood tests pick up early signs of liver problems.”   

There is no cure for hepatitis B and the virus can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. 

The positive figures come as we prepare to mark World Hepatitis Day on July 28. The global annual event educates people about hepatitis and the importance of getting tested if you think you may be at risk. High-risk groups include people of Māori, Pacific Island or east Asian ethnicity, anyone with a mother or close family member who has the virus or who shares a household with someone who has it.  

This World Hepatitis Day we will launch a podcast, Let’s Talk Liver, featuring nurses, patients and health care professionals talking about liver health. It is running a morning tea competition for GPs and pharmacists aimed at increasing awareness among medical professionals, and has articles planned in various publications. “We’ve had a huge amount of support from other health care organisations and media partners, and we’re grateful for that,” says HFNZ CEO Susan Hay. “It’s important for everyone in the health care industry to work together to help people with hepatitis B achieve positive outcomes.” 


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