The Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver has come out with new guidelines for testing and treating hepatitis C. The recommendation is that all Canadians born between 1945 and 1975 should be routinely tested for the potentially liver-destroying virus. The key here is that people be tested based on their age — rather than possible risk factors. That’s because more than 250,000 Canadians are believed to be infected with hepatitis C, but an estimated 40 to 70 per cent have no idea they harbour the blood-borne virus. It can take decades before symptoms appear, and the Hepatitis C Chronic infection can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.
Screening for the virus, or HCV, involves an inexpensive blood test, and there is now an effective treatment with cure rates above 95 per cent. A similar age based guideline has been in effect in the U.S. since 2012. Most people exposed to the virus are able to clear the infection, and the drugs are covered here in Ontario.