Written for Mediaplanet’s campaign covering infectious diseases and liver illness.
Published online and in print inside the National Post on September 17, 2015.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that attacks the liver, yet most patients do not realize they have contracted the disease until it has already done significant — and sometimes irreversible – damage.
“It’s an infection that you contract through exposure to infected blood,” explains Dr. Jordan Feld, a hepatologist at the Toronto Western Hospital. “It’s more easily contracted than people realize. Our biggest challenge is that most people who contract it are unaware of their infection.”
In Canada, an estimated 250,000 people have hepatitis C and at least one in five of those don’t know they’re infected.
While some patients are able to clear the virus naturally, approximately 75 percent of those who get infected end up with chronic hepatitis C, a life-threatening disease that is the leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplantation in Canada.