Calgary doctor urges healthy people to get tested for hepatitis

The silent killer: The importance of getting tested for Hepatitis C
Hepatologist Dr. Bertus Eksteen joins Global News Morning for World Hepatitis Day. Eksteen talks about the need to get tested and treated for Hepatitis C and who is most at risk.

A Calgary doctor is using World Hepatitis Day to encourage residents to get tested for Hepatitis C, even if they don’t believe they have contracted the virus.

“Hepatitis C is a very successful virus,” Dr. Bertus Eksteen said Saturday on Global News Morning.

“It wants to infect you and then it wants a long period to spread to other people.”

Those infected by the virus won’t know they have it initially, unless they get tested, according to Eksteen. He added that patients can avoid damaging their liver if doctors discover the infection sooner rather than later.

“Once damage becomes severe in your liver, then it might be too late to get rid of the virus,” Eksteen said.

“When you’re healthy, get tested.”

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More than 300 million people worldwide have viral hepatitis, according to the World Hepatitis Alliance. Hepatitis A is usually contracted through contaminated water or food, while Hepatitis B is transmitted through bodily fluids.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about hepatitis

Hepatitis C is commonly spread through infected blood and Eksteen said contaminated needles are often to blame. He noted that baby boomers are the most at risk in our society when it comes to that strain of the virus.

“They were born… when there was perhaps too much needle use for drugs, we didn’t know the risks, there was a lot of body piercings.”

Eksteen also said that new immigrants to Canada are vulnerable because immunizations and body piercings in certain parts of the world are done with unsterilized needles.