Time to love your liver during Hepatitis Awareness Week

Liver lovers: Associate Professor Amany Zekry and clinical nurse consultant Lisa Dowdell. Picture: Supplied

Liver lovers: Associate Professor Amany Zekry and clinical nurse consultant Lisa Dowdell. Picture: Supplied

St George Hospital Liver Clinic staff are urging the community to learn more about hepatitis during Hepatitis Awareness Week (July 27 to August 2).

St George Hospital Liver Clinic director Associate Professor Amany Zekry said Hepatitis Awareness Week and World Hepatitis Day (July 28) were an opportunity to focus on viral hepatitis and encourage people to ask their GP to be tested for hepatitis B and C.

"Hepatitis Awareness Week allows the community to become better informed about hepatitis - how to prevent it, test for it, treat it and now, for hepatitis C, cure it," she said.

It comes as South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD) is using World Hepatitis Day to encourage those living with hepatitis C to find out about new treatments and cures.

NSW is moving closer to eliminating hepatitis C in the community after 27,000 people across the state were cured of the virus after trying new treatments.

"These new medications for hepatitis C are very effective, with a cure rate over 95 per cent," Associate Professor Zekry said.

"They can be prescribed by any GP and can cure the virus within eight to 12 weeks with minimal or no side effects.

"Thanks to these groundbreaking medications, the elimination of hepatitis C is now an achievable goal [and] we're aiming to eliminate hepatitis C within the next eight years."

The health cost savings associated with curing hepatitis C are great - equating to about $88 million. So far about 34 per cent of people thought to be living with hepatitis C in NSW have been treated.

A new oral pill treatment is revolutionary compared with previous drugs that took longer to treat, had more side-effects and lower cure rates.

"Initially, there are almost no symptoms but if left untreated, hepatitis C can ultimately result in significant liver disease and liver cancer," Associate Professor Zekry said.

"With effective and safe treatment now available, we strongly encourage people to be tested and treated."

She said one in three people living with hepatitis B were unaware they had the virus but it too could cause liver damage and liver cancer if left untreated long term.

"Many were born in countries where hepatitis B is common. Identifying people living with chronic hepatitis B is also vital, because if people don't know they have hepatitis B they cannot undertake regular monitoring and won't be accessing lifesaving treatment if they need to," Associate Professor Zekry said.

For details on testing, treatment and prevention of hepatitis C phone the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 900 or click her.

For more information on hepatitis B and click here.