Saskatchewan

Number of people unknowingly contracting hepatitis C on the rise: doctor

A doctor with the federal government says more people are contracting hepatitis C and even HIV without knowing it.

Hepatitis C could lead to liver failure, jaundice

Hepatitis C pills (Craig Chivers/CBC)

The number of people contracting hepatitis C, and HIV in some cases, without knowing about it is on the rise, according to Dr. Ibrahim Khan.

Khan, a regional medical health officer in the First Nations and Inuit Health branch of Indigenous Services Canada, said access to care and family doctors, especially in Indigenous communities is a significant barrier to diagnosing patients. 

"It gets even more complicated, (in that) that we also have an increasing trend of dual infection — hepatitis C and HIV," Khan told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning

In addition to some potential patients having to travel long distances for treatment, or being unable to find a family physician, there is still the stigma surround hepatitis C and the fears about its potential effects, like liver failure and even death.

Hepatitis C can be treated and even cured, Khan said, through programs like an eight to 12 week treatment program or other options.

The number of medical professionals who will be able to prescribe treatment will also expand to include professionals like general practitioners, for example.

Khan spoke with CBC ahead of World Hepatitis Day, which is on July 28.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning