Free Hepatitis C check in Rotorua

File photo.

A free finger prick to test for Hepatitis C virus is being offered by the Lakes District Health Board.

The move is in response to an estimated count of 25,000 people suspected to have not being diagnosed with the disease.

The test will be held at Te Aka Mauri (Rotorua Library) on Monday, July 29.

Lakes DHB clinical nurse specialist Lydia White will be at a drop-in clinic to undertake the tests and discuss the results from 1.30pm to 7pm.

There will also be information, prizes and kai, along with other health care professionals’ support.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a blood borne virus infecting the liver, causing inflammation and damage over time. Left untreated, chronic infection can progress eventually to liver failure or cancer. It is spread by blood to blood contact.

Main risk factors are:

■ Tattoo or body piercing with unsterile equipment.

■ Blood transfusion before 1992.

■ People who have ever injected drugs; even once.

■ Lived in or received medical treatment in a country of high prevalence and low standard of medical equipment serialisation.

■ Been in prison.

“There are lots of ways people may have got Hepatitis C,” Lydia says.

“We won’t ask how you got it, we just want to treat people who do have it to prevent liver damage and cancer.”

Should the finger test return positive, a further blood test is necessary to check for active Hepatitis C virus, and the team will be able to do that on the same day and send the specimen to the laboratory.

A statement from the Lakes DHB says new medication to treat the virus is almost 100 per cent effective with, if any, only a few mild side effects.

Statistics suggest nine out of 10 people don’t report any side-effects and will only need to take the tablets for eight weeks, Lydia says.

“People don’t need to be scared of the treatment any more. The new treatments are completely different. It’s a different ball game now.”

Lydia White is a gastroenterology clinical nurse specialist who specialises in the digestive system. She has been a nurse for 18 years specialising in gastroenterology for 12 years.

No appointment is necessary.

World Hepatitis Day is Sunday 28 July 2019.

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