Between the years of 2012-2016, the rate of new hepatitis C cases in the Algoma district has increased by 7.2%, according to new data released by Algoma Public Health.

Ontario map/public domain wikimedia commons
Ontario map/public domain wikimedia commons

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that is carried in the blood and can cause severe damage to the liver. The virus is spread through the blood and in body fluids containing blood of an infected person.

“The hepatitis C virus infects the liver, the part of the body that helps digest food and remove waste from the body’” said Jon Bouma, manager of Environmental Health and Communicable Disease Control at Algoma Public Health. “The infection can result in a short-term illness (less than 6 months). However, many people infected will develop chronic infection which can cause liver failure and liver cancer.”

In 2016 alone, Algoma’s rates for those aged 20-29 were 3.8 times higher than the provincial average.

“You can protect yourself from getting hepatitis C,” said Bouma. The best way to keep yourself and others safe from getting hepatitis C is by:

• Never share needles, straws, pipes or any other drug-related equipment.
• Avoid blood-to-blood contact during sexual activity.
Practice safer sex practices by using latex condoms. If you have hepatitis C, inform your sexual partners.
• Do not share personal care items such as razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes and scissors with an infected person.