On 12 March 2020, the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus COVID-19 a pandemic. For people with hepatitis B and hepatitis C, this is what you need to know about COVID-19 and how you may be affected.
What is COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can make humans and animals sick. COVID-19 is caused by a new strain of coronavirus that was first reported in December 2019.
How does Coronavirus spread?
The virus can be spread from person-to-person through:
- close contact with someone who has the virus
- contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
- touching objects or surfaces that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person, then touching your face.
Coronavirus in Australia
To date, COVID-19 has remained relatively contained in Australia, with the majority of cases being a result of overseas travel. However, the large amount of media attention given to the virus can make it hard to separate fact from fiction.
Will COVID-19 mean any change to my treatment and care for hepatitis B or hepatitis C?
People living with hepatitis B or C who are currently taking treatment should not change or stop their treatment unless advised to do so by their treating doctor. People should be aware that recent changes restricting prescriptions to a one-month supply of medications means ensuring you plan and avoid missing doses. There is nothing to suggest that the availability of medications used for hepatitis B or C will be reduced due to COVID-19.
Monitoring your health will continue to be important and access to doctors may vary. Some clinics are establishing telephone consultations but making appointments in advance will be important. You should check with your healthcare provider to see what arrangements they are putting in place. If you have an appointment with your doctor it is good to consider asking your doctor for a liver health check if you have not had one in the last six months.
Hepatitis C and hepatitis B… and COVID-19
Information suggests some people living with hepatitis B and hepatitis C could be at greater risk of serious health complications if they become infected with COVID-19. In particular, if you have had hep B or hep C for some time, and have developed advanced liver diseases (including cirrhosis) this makes severe COVID-19 illness more likely. This includes people who have ongoing health conditions as a result of a previous hepatitis C infection which has been cured. We’ll update this advisory as more information becomes available.
The factsheet, available below, contains information on COVID-19 for people affected by viral hepatitis, including information about how to reduce the likelihood of infection. The key message is to be vigilant and use basic measures to protect yourself against COVID-19. Consult a healthcare provider if in doubt about your risk, especially if you have been around someone who has travelled overseas recently.
Some people living with existing chronic conditions could be at greater risk of serious health complications if they become infected with COVID-19. To help people living with hepatitis B and hepatitis C, or chronic conditions caused by a previous hepatitis C infection, Hepatitis Australia has put together a factsheet.
View the factsheet [updated March 20, 2020] >>> CLICK HERE
Contact the Hepatitis Infoline 1800 803 990 speak to someone about how Coronavirus/COVID-19 might affect you if you have hepatitis B or C.
Preventing Coronavirus Outbreaks in Aboriginal Communities Factsheet>>
For psychological, online support aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (bulk billed) read this flyer >>
For (national) information about COVID-19 please see HealthDirect.gov.au >>
For (NSW) information about COVID-19 please see NSW Health.gov.au >>
For localised information about COVID-19 please see your local NSW Local Health District website >>
Regarding clinical attendance via video-consultations in Australia
It might be possible for you to attend GPs and specialist clinics – such as Liver Clinics and Gastro Clinics – via video – please check with your GP or specialist.
For gastrointestinal and liver patients this applies to people considered more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus:
- at least 70 years old; or
- at least 50 years old and is of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent; or
- is pregnant; or
- is a parent of a child under 12 months; or
- is already under treatment for chronic health conditions or is immune compromised.