Still Out There – hep C which has a cure & hep B which has a vaccine…

In these COVID-focused times, it is worth remembering that there are other viruses out there, active in our community. World Hepatitis Day reminds us that over 226,500 Australians – including over 12,000 South Australians – live with the hepatitis B virus, and the hepatitis C virus still affects the health of 114,000 Australians despite the availability of highly effective Medicare-funded treatments.

While South Australia has done well in treating people with chronic hepatitis C, the rate of treatment uptake has been dropping dramatically; and our state’s hepatitis B clinical care uptake is below national average, and well below the National Strategy target.

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Coronavirus and Hepatitis

What are the risks of coronavirus COVID-19 for people living with hepatitis B or hepatitis C? People with weakened immune systems (e.g. people on immune suppressing medications, people receiving cancer treatments), older people especially those aged over 70 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people with chronic medical conditions are particularly at risk from the effects of COVID-19.

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Talk to a Nurse

South Australia’s Viral Hepatitis Nurses are clinical practice consultants who work with patients in the community, general practice or hospital setting. They provide a link between public hospital specialist services and general practice, and give specialised support to general practitioners (GPs) to assist in the management of patients with hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

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Hepatitis B Screening for People Receiving Cancer Therapy

An Australian expert panel of medical specialists have recommended that all people receiving immunosuppression cancer therapy be screened for hepatitis B.

If you have ever been infected by hepatitis B, cancer treatment which suppresses your immune system can allow the virus to reactivate – even if your body had dealt with it successfully before. Reactivation can lead to liver failure, death or sub-optimal cancer treatment.

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Hepatitis B – the neglected epidemic

Close to 234,000 Australians live with chronic hepatitis B—one of the leading causes of liver cancer—and almost four out of ten don’t know they have the condition. It is even more alarming in South Australia, where six out of ten are not diagnosed1.

Hepatitis B diagnosis rate in Australia remains stagnant at around 63 per cent from 2015 to 2017, and our treatment rate of 8.3 per cent falls far short of the recommended 20 per cent of people with chronic hepatitis B estimated to need treatment. In this respect too, South Australia lags with a treatment uptake of only 5.7 per cent—and only 16 per cent of those with chronic hepatitis B being monitored, well below the national average of 20.2  per cent2.

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New guidelines mean more freedom for healthcare workers living with BBVs

New national guidelines endorsed by the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council have been released in January 2019 for healthcare workers who perform exposure-prone procedures, and for healthcare workers living with a blood-borne virus (BBV).

These are the Australian National Guidelines for the Management of Healthcare Workers Living with Blood Borne Viruses and Healthcare Workers who Perform Exposure Prone Procedures at Risk of Exposure to Blood Borne Viruses.

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