(NC)-Hepatitis A and B are not just travellers diseases, they can travel to you right here in Canada. Dr. Morris Sherman, a medical advisor for the Canadian Liver Foundation, debunks the myths about hepatitis A and B and offers advice on how you and your family can avoid contracting these serious liver diseases.
Q: What are hepatitis A and B, and how common are they in Canada?
Hepatitis A and B are serious liver diseases with potentially serious consequences. Hepatitis A is found in the feces of infected people and is usually spread by ingesting contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B is transmitted through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person; hepatitis B is much more infectious than HIV. Symptoms of hepatitis A and B include jaundice, nausea, fatigue, and fever.
In Canada, between 1990 and 2004 the number of reported hepatitis A cases varied from over 3,500 to less than 400. As the infection can be present without symptoms, there is likely significant under-diagnosis and under-reporting. In fact, the actual number of hepatitis A cases in Canada is estimated to be at least 10 times higher than the reported statistics. With regard to hepatitis B, about 8,000 people were diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B in 2007 and less than 1,000 acute hepatitis B cases are reported each year.
Q: How could I get hepatitis A or B in Canada, and what can I do to protect myself?
Hepatitis A and B are not as prevalent in Canada as they are in other parts of the world. However, there are still many ways in which the diseases can be unknowingly spread in Canada.
Hepatitis A can be contracted in Canada through:
Hepatitis B can be contracted in Canada through:
You and your family can avoid contracting hepatitis A and B by getting vaccinated against both diseases