The exciting news is that new medications have recently been approved in Australia which offer the majority of people living with hepatitis C a cure rate of over 95%.
Unlike the older treatments which included injections of Interferon which often had disabling side effects, the new treatments can be as simple as 1 or 2 tablets a day taken for only 12 weeks. The side effects of these new treatments are minimal.
It is expected the new treatments will become widely available in the first half of 2016- watch this space!
Both hepatitis B and C are common in people living in the north of Australia.
Hepatitis B is transmitted by sex, from mother to baby at birth and by blood to blood contact.
Hepatitis C is transmitted mainly by blood to blood spread (ie by sharing needles, unsafe tattooing and piercing and by blood transfusions in the past.) Hepatitis C can also be sexually transmitted although this is mainly in men who have sex with men (MSM).
Although a proportion of people clear these viruses naturally, many people will have the virus remain active in the long term. This can significantly affect the health of their liver and their risk of getting liver cancer as they age.
All people living with hepatitis need monitoring of their liver function and advice about a healthy lifestyle.
The good news is the majority of people can be cured of Hepatitis C by a course of treatment over 6-12 months. These treatments are complex and require doctors to be trained and experienced in their use.
Although it is harder to cure Hepatitis B there are safe medications available to keep the liver healthy in the long term.
Cairns Doctors are experienced in caring for people living with hepatitis and we have specially trained doctors who can assist you to understand the complex treatments available.
Visit the Hepatitis Australia website to learn more about Hepatitis B and C.