Are you at risk of having hepatitis C?

New  survey shows Canadians unaware of their own risks

An estimated 250,000 Canadians live with hepatitis C, a deadly virus that attacks the liver and can lead to liver cancer, liver failure or even death. A new survey conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of the CLF found that among adults born between 1945 and 1975, only 29 per cent believe their own age group has the most people living with hepatitis C. Yet, adults born between 1945 and 1975 have the highest risk of having undiagnosed hepatitis C. The survey also found more than 75 per cent of the respondents have not been tested for the deadly disease or don’t know if they have. 

52 year old Sharon Rider contracted hepatitis C at age 16 when she received a transfusion during back surgery to correct her scoliosis. She was finally diagnosed 23 years later when she underwent a battery of blood tests prior to a second back surgery.

“When I found out I was terrified that I might have passed it on to my husband or children,” said Sharon. “No one had ever suggested that I should get tested for hepatitis C and I didn't have any symptoms that would have suggested that this virus was attacking and damaging my liver.”

Adults born between 1945 and 1975 (including those born in Canada or abroad) are a high risk group because they may have undergone blood transfusions before testing of blood was introduced, experienced medical procedures or immunization before modern infection control measures became the norm (especially outside of Canada)  or experimented with intravenous drug use (even once). The disease is spread through blood to blood contact with an infected person or through unsterilized equipment, such as tattoo or piercing needles, that have been contaminated with infected blood. 

Want to know if you should get tested for hepatitis C? Download our quiz.

Spread the word! The CLF recommends testing for hepatitis C to those born between 1945 and 1975.

Results by region:

  • Almost 40 per cent of survey respondents in Atlantic and Quebec do not know that getting a tattoo can put them at risk of contracting hepatitis C.  
  • Only 61 per cent of those in Quebec believe that hepatitis C can lead to the most life-threatening consequences including  cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver transplant and death. 
  • Only 10 per cent of respondents in Ontario and Quebec believe that hepatitis C causes the highest rate of premature death from a list of other infectious diseases. 
  • 72 per cent of Ontario respondents and 76 per cent of BC respondents have not been tested or do not know if they have been tested for hepatitis C. 

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The Canadian Liver Foundation acknowledges AbbVie Canada, Gilead Sciences Canada and Janssen Inc. for their support of the CLF’s campaign to raise awareness about hepatitis C as a serious liver disease and promote liver health in Canada.