With the desire to help people in rural Appalachia, Naomi became a registered nurse and had dreams of one day becoming a doctor. While working in the fast paced ICUs in Nashville, Naomi remembers often being stuck by needles and being covered in bodily fluids while helping patients.
As a boy, Abdel remembers lining up once a month with his classmates for injections against schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease spread by water snails in Egypt, where he lived. As he was afraid of needles, he always tried his best to be last in line and never wondered where the needle had been before it poked him.
Forty years ago, Julia gave birth to her first child, a daughter. After her daughter’s birth, Julia haemorrhaged and was saved by a blood transfusion.
Each one of the above people have families, hopes, dreams, plans to live until they are old and gray — we all do — and they probably still hold on to those dreams. However, until recently, those dreams may have seemed out of reach for them because of something else they also had in common. All four of them, Kagen, Naomi, Abdel, and Julia, had hepatitis C, a virus that easily passes through blood.
Hepatitis C is a serious and potentially life-threatening liver disease that can lead to liver cirrhosis, cancer, or liver failure. However, in many cases those life-threatening developments may only develop after years of having no symptoms at all or having hepatitis C symptoms that can be written off as symptoms of the normal process of aging.
The group most impacted by hepatitis C, some 60,000 in B.C., are baby boomers, those who were born between 1945 and 1965. Many have lived with the infection for years but have never been tested or treated because they have never believed themselves to be at risk. Having the virus has just never crossed their minds as hep C symptoms can often take decades to emerge and when they do can just seem to be normal signs of aging.
Thankfully, testing for the virus is quick, easy, and can be done confidentially and at home. Thankfully, there are now new pills able to cure it.
With these services and treatments, British Columbia now has the opportunity to achieve a huge public healthcare feat. B.C. can avoid the cost of increased rates of liver cancer, end stage liver disease, and the consequences of hepatitis C’s symptoms, just by seeking out those carrying the hepatitis C virus and treating them.
However, as the virus can quickly and quietly spread, identifying those with the virus in B.C. and treating everyone infected, in a relatively short period of time, is the best way to eliminate it. In 2015, Prince Edward Island, for example, as well as other areas around the world, adopted this strategy and proved that hepatitis C elimination is possible. They proved that eliminating the hepatitis C virus should now be the world’s only course of action against the virus and that British Columbia should adopt a strategy of elimination as soon as possible.
For more information about hepatitis C and its cures, please visit the Hepatitis C Treatment Information Project.
CBC News. $5M hepatitis C strategy announced by P.E.I. government. Feb 12, 2015. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/5m-hepatitis-c-strategy-announced-by-p-e-i-government-1.2954701 Accessed on Mar. 2017.
Everyday Health. Singer Naomi Judd Raises Her Voice on Hepatitis C. July 2014, http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/my-health-story/singer-naomi-judd-raises-her-voice-hepatitis-c/. Accessed Mar. 2017.
“Generation Hep”. Generationhep.com. Accessed Mar. 2017.
McNeil, Donald. “Curing Hepatitis C, In An Experiment The Size Of Egypt”. Nytimes.com, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/16/health/hepatitis-c-treatment-egypt.html?_r=0 Accessed on Mar. 2017.
Southeast Missourian. Thankful people: Kagen Hill cured of hepatitis C, 2016, http://www.semissourian.com/story/2363041.html. Accessed Mar. 2017.