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Hundreds call hepatitis helpline

Hepatitis FoundationMonday 22 July 2013, 1:58PM

Media release from The Hepatitis Foundation NZ

Hundreds of people have been calling The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand after discovering they may be at risk of hepatitis B.

"We've seen a significant increase in people requesting a test for hepatitis," said Susan Hay, Hepatitis B Programme Manager of The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand. "We are thrilled people are taking responsibility for their health and taking the necessary steps to find out if they have the virus."

Ms Hay said there were also a large number of people self-enrolling onto the Foundation's national programme, as well as an increase in doctors referring patients with hepatitis to the programme.

The increase comes after hepatitis B risk factors were promoted throughout areas of the North Island. The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand launched it's 'Can you say yes' campaign at the start of July, as part of a build-up to World Hepatitis Day on 28 July.

John Hornell, CEO of The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand calls for action on hepatitis B. "Too many lives are lost to this manageable disease. If people are diagnosed early and are regularly monitored, outcomes would be different.

"We urge anyone over 25 years who is of Māori, Pacific Island, or Asian ethnicity to get tested," said Mr Hornell.

People should also get tested if they were born outside New Zealand, their mother or close family member has hepatitis B, or if they live with someone with hepatitis B.

Approximately 100,000 New Zealanders live with chronic hepatitis B, and most are unaware they have it. This virus is the main cause of liver cancer in New Zealand; however, in most cases, liver cancer is preventable if detected early.

The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand is the national provider for long-term follow-up of people living with chronic hepatitis B (and/or hepatitis C). The 13,500 New Zealanders already enrolled in the programme receive regular blood tests, education, and support.

"Regular blood testing enables early detection of complications, such as liver inflammation and cancer. If any anomalies are identified, we can act before it's too late," said Mr Hornell.

"While we still need to identify tens of thousands of New Zealanders who don't realise they have hepatitis B, I am also concerned about the thousands of people with chronic hepatitis B who have moved to Australia or other parts of the world. These people may not be accessing regular blood tests that are vital in preventing liver cancer."

On Sunday 28 July, people from all over the globe will come together to celebrate and embrace World Hepatitis Day. This day is an opportunity for all New Zealanders to learn about hepatitis and an opportunity for people to get tested if they are, or have been, at risk.

The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand is a charitable trust promoting positive health outcomes for people living with chronic hepatitis.

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