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Even a gentle brook can hit rocks – Kin’s hep B story

Even a gentle brook can hit rocks – Kin’s hep B story

Even a gentle brook can hit rocks - Kin's hep B story

Kin lives in Sydney with his wife and three children. He has written here about his life lived with hepatitis B, the effect it had on his liver, and how continual monitoring saved him from a potentially devastating health outcome.

You can also read this story in Chinese, as originally written – 我的乙肝故事 >>> CLICK HERE

This story won First Place/ Chinese/ Lived Experience in our 2021 Hep B Chinese and Korean Writing Competition. Congratulations, Kin!

When I was born in China, in the early 1980s, there was no requirement to vaccinate newborns against hepatitis B. My parents learned that I had the hepatitis B virus during a routine test to enrol in a primary school, and later found out that my father also had hepatitis B. Since, in those days, there was no vaccine it meant that many children got hepatitis B from their parents and it remained undetected until they were given a blood test at an older age.

Monitoring my hepatitis B

My parents paid great attention to my health. When they learnt that I had hepatitis B, they immediately consulted with doctors for more information. Over 30 years ago, technology was not as developed as it is now, so information on where to find a good doctor was often passed through word of mouth. We visited many doctors, both traditional Chinese medicine and western medicine. My father blamed himself for not protecting me. During those days of seeking medical care, he would accompany me, taking medication with me together every day. Sometimes he would go by himself to the hospital for treatments, such as an IV drip.

My father had a firm belief that, if we persisted and were optimistic, the hepatitis B test results would turn negative. Yes, indeed there was a time when we both had our surface antigen test return as negative. However, just when we thought we had defeated the virus, it came back again. I was told that I still had hepatitis B during my routine test for entering second school, and my father was later found to still have it too. We were informed by a doctor that this was common among chronic hepatitis B patients. Since there were no drugs to cure us, we needed regular monitoring. That way, if anything out of the ordinary was found, we could then start treatment to reduce any likelihood of damage to our livers. From that point on, my father gave up the thought that our hepatitis B could be cured.

Hepatitis B almost derailed my studies

Over many years, except for the red elevating marks on our lab reports, it seemed to be having no effect on us. Because of this, my father did not pay much attention to the regular monitoring by the doctor. Then, a month before my college entrance examination, they found major changes in my condition. I was told that my status was what they called “big three positive” (HBeAg positive).

This meant, so the doctor told me, that the virus was actively replicating and I had a high viral load. In my day, study was so important that it could truly change one’s fate. Now at such an important time in my life, I felt plagued by this virus and it would be wrong to say that I did not feel devastated. However, my father’s perseverance again gave me great support and encouragement.

He said to me, “Son, you do not need to worry about anything. Concentrate on the exam, follow the doctor’s treatment plan for medication. It’s okay if you’ve done your best”.

I listened to his words, and indeed things seemed to go in the right direction. A check-up before the exam showed that I was back to “small three positive” status (from HBeAg positive to HBeAb positive), which suggested my viral load was lower. I achieved an excellent result in my exam, ranked in the top five in my school, and got into my preferred university.

Despite hepatitis B, my life became like a gentle brook

From there, my life followed a path taken by so many others. After completing my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, I got into a software technology company and was travelling around China to various companies as an accounting software consultant. It was busy, particularly around the end of each month, and overworking was common. Despite this, I remained aware of my condition and knew I could not afford to ignore it. I never missed my six-monthly check-ups, ate regularly, and got plenty of rest. Everything was going well.

At the end of 2010, I met my current partner who, while settled in Australia, had returned to China to visit relatives. Through “matchmaking”, we got to know each other and soon got married. At the end of 2014, I finished my employment contract with the company in China and decided not to renew it. Instead, I moved to Australia to settle down with my wife.

After the birth of our third child, my employment became stable and I no longer needed to work overtime – our life became easy and comfortable. I had thought my life would be like a brook, trickling slowly into one long river of happiness. However, some unexpected news hit us hard.

Unexpected liver complications

Following a hepatitis B check-up at the end of 2019, the clinic urgently informed me that my AFP level (Alpha-Fetoprotein – for potential tumour markers) was out of the normal range. I also was contacted by a hepatologist from Westmead Hospital, who arranged for me to have an abdominal CT scan. I was puzzled and didn’t know how to react to this news – a check-up half year earlier showed everything was normal. The had told me that my hepatitis B surface antigen had “turned negative” – HBV-DNA not detected. So, I was very shocked to hear of this new development.

I started searching online for information about AFP, as a tumour marker – particularly for chronic hepatitis B patients – high levels could be signs of liver cancer. I felt panicked and had to force myself to calm down, it was such a short time to go from being told the hepatitis B was not detected in my blood to the possibility of having a tumour. I told my wife the news, she was also confused but told me to follow the doctor’s advice.

When the CT scan report came back and showed that everything was normal, my wife was relieved and thought maybe the doctor was making a fuss over a minor issue. After all, there were many reasons to cause the elevation of AFP, not necessarily liver cancer. However, I was still worried.

Was it liver cancer, or not?

From that point, I was scheduled for blood tests every two weeks – one month later the specialist ordered an MRI. My blood tests had continually indicated an ongoing elevation of my AFP levels, even sometimes doubling.

I was restless and became more silent and withdrawn. My wife did not understand, and we even argued over this. She thought that I was totally preoccupied with the matter and was not sharing the responsibility of looking after our kids. After our fight, I came to realise that I should carry on with my life regardless of any potential illness, and that I should take more responsibilities while I could.

Then the MRI report came back and showed a suspected tumour. My wife became worried and felt bad for being harsh on me. However, for me, it was a relief. I comforted my wife by saying it was better that we knew, so we could do something about it. I waited two weeks for the specialist to see me – he was having consultations with other specialists to develop a treatment plan. He told me that they were confident that there were cancer cells in my liver. However, the good news was that it had been found early, the tumour was in an accessible location and could be surgically removed.

Since it was almost Christmas, the operation was scheduled after the new year. Obviously, there were risks for operations. Liver resection is a challenge for surgeons, requiring sophisticated skills and, for patients like me, there was a risk of heavy bleeding. But, after the meeting with my specialist, I was confident in his expertise and skills and became relaxed.

My liver surgery

Although the operation took three more hours longer than expected, it was successful. The extra time was due to the rechecking and re-examining of my liver to make sure the tumour was completely removed.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to not only the chief surgeon, Dr Yuen, for his precision and care, but also to the team of hepatologists led by Professor Jacob George  at Westmead Hospital. They indeed gave me another life. I stayed in the hospital for observation for five days after the surgery. I was taken good care of by the doctors and nurses during those days. Even though my wife was busy looking after the family, she would still take time every day to see me. When I saw her taking our one-year-old daughter in and out every day, I told myself that I should take care of my health, so that I can look after my family well.

My colleagues came to visit me during my rehabilitative days at home after they learnt about my condition. All this support and care made me feel like Australia is a place full of love and dignity.

Future life plans

Every three months now, I take a blood test and MRI to monitor my liver. I gradually regained my strength and recovered back to how I was before. Life gives me challenges but also offers me blessings. Now for the rest of my life, I will cherish every day, every moment with my family and friends.

Published 8 November, 2021

Kin adds: “I’m glad to have  had this chance to help to bring more awareness of hepatitis B to people. It is indeed an honour and good luck to win the first prize.”

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My Secret Hepatitis B Story

My Secret Hep B Story

Ji-Young is a 36-year-old Sydney woman, currently taking Viread medication for hep B. She’s been on Viread for over five years now and has no issues with her viral load or liver function, and is very healthy. Ji-Young is also a mother to two children who she raised through breastfeeding.

She wrote this story in the hope that her experiences can help others.

You can also read this story in Korean, as originally written – 나의 비밀 이야기 >>> CLICK HERE

This story won First Place/ Korean/ Lived Experience in our 2021 Hep B Chinese and Korean Writing Competition. Congratulations Ji-Young!

My hep B diagnosis took me by surprise

My mother was living with hep B when she was pregnant with me, meaning I acquired the virus at birth. Presumably there was no hep B vaccination for newborns at that time, or my mother was unaware of it.

The first time I heard of the term “hepatitis B” was as a high school student in Korea, when I was in the process of becoming a blood donor.

I had gone to the blood donation centre with all my friends and had my blood taken, but a few days later I received a letter with blood test results that indicated my blood was “unfit” to donate.

When I asked my mother she explained to me, for the first time, that she had acquired hep B when her mother – my grandmother – gave birth to her. So, in the same way I had gotten it from my mother.

From then on, I never tried to donate my blood again. But I also didn’t undergo any special medical assessments or treatments related to my hepatitis either. I spent many years simply forgetting and ignoring the virus.

Coming to Australia… I could no longer ignore my hep B

In 2007, I came to Australia and began the many preparations required to receive permanent residency. Those preparations had finally been completed by 2011, and with all the documents submitted I arrived at one of the final stages – the physical examination.

During the physical exam, I completed many different tests. Then, in the section of a questionnaire where I had to select medical conditions that applied to me, I again encountered the word “hepatitis B”.

Suddenly, I was half-curious and half-worried that this could apply to me, and I informed the person in charge that I thought I might still have hepatitis B. Little did I realise, it would be from this point on that I would begin my hepatitis B treatments in Australia.

I say all this lightly now, but to be honest, I had a very hard time. Following the notification of my hep B status, the immigration office placed further requirements on top of the physical examination, the processes for gaining my permanent residency kept increasing.

After the first physical exam, I was asked to submit a full blood test and an ultrasound result, and to seek a doctor’s opinion about the condition of my liver.

So, I went to St. Vincent’s Hospital to see a Gastroenterology Specialist who took my blood test and ultrasound there. At that time, I was 25, had never drank or smoked, and didn’t have any other medical conditions. My results indicated that my viral load was low and there were no issues with my liver function.

Regular monitoring of my hep B was essential

With my doctor’s opinion that, because of these good results, there was no reason to have a disadvantage in gaining permanent residency, everything was approved – I finally gained permanent residency in Australia! However, the doctor also advised me to take a blood test every six months and an ultrasound every year.

From that point on, following the doctor’s advice, I’ve been having regular blood tests and ultrasounds from a GP, and seeing a specialist at a Liver Clinic for my annual liver check.

Despite this, as time went on, my viral load began gradually increasing. In 2016 it skyrocketed, and it was then that my doctor recommended treatment for the first time – a medication called Viread. Thankfully, Medicare covered all treatment and prevention processes and the medication. I had no reason for any hesitancy as there was no cost for treatment.

After a few months of taking Viread, following another blood test, my viral load had thankfully returned to healthy levels. Even so, my doctor stressed that I must continue to take Viread and still have regular blood tests, as it was not possible to predict when, or how, my viral load could change.

My pregnancies, breastfeeding, and hep B

In 2017, as I had moved where I lived, I instead began attending a Liver Clinic in Liverpool. Through consultations with my doctor there, I learned that taking Viread has no, or very little, effect on pregnancy and childbirth.

So, while continuing to take my medication every day, I became pregnant with my first child. The doctor also urged me to ensure that my child received the hepatitis B immunoglobulin vaccine after birth to prevent them from getting the virus.

I gave birth with no problems, and my child was vaccinated with the help of a midwife. Furthermore, since I gave birth at the same hospital as my Liver Clinic, they kept a close eye on my liver health.

When my child was around nine-months old, a blood test was done to check if they had gained immunity against hepatitis B, and thankfully, they had – they did not have the virus.

Following that experience, I again continued to take the same medication throughout my second pregnancy and birth. Currently we’re in the fourth month of breastfeeding and both of us are well, with no issues.

Even now, I regularly have blood tests and receive counselling at the Liverpool Liver Clinic, and my viral load and liver health both remain in good condition.

Looking forward to my healthy future

Beyond my immediate family and my very close friends, people aren’t aware that I take medication for my hepatitis B. I don’t say anything either. It is true that the disease known as hepatitis B generally isn’t viewed in the most positive light, and since there are many people who aren’t aware of it, I don’t tend to tell people.

Luckily, since I don’t have any issues with my liver health, I haven’t experienced any discrimination or discomfort. However, the task of having to take a pill every day for the rest of my life, and the responsibility of having to pay more attention to my health than others, including avoiding alcohol and smoking, can be daunting.

But this is not much to endure to live a long, healthy life. I think a main reason I have lived my life so far without any issues with my liver has been due to the consultations I have had for over ten years.

I don’t know what kind of system is in place in Korea, but hepatitis B patients in Australia are taken very good care of. For that I believe I’m truly fortunate.

Published 19 October, 2021

Ji-Young adds: “This has been my experience as a person living with hepatitis B. I was at a loose end during the recent COVID lockdown period, so I just used my direct experience to tell my story, and I’m so proud to receive first prize!”

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The worst thing about hep B isn’t always the virus

The Worst Thing About Hep B Isn’t Always The Virus

Mary, one of our Hepatitis Speakers, has written a guest blog post about her experience of living with hepatitis B.

I have lived with hep B for all of my life. Although this is a virus that can badly damage the liver, the worst thing about it has mostly been the lack of information about it and the behaviour of other people towards me when they find out I have hep B.

No one told me what I should do about having hep B

Until after a check-up for my pregnancy, I hadn’t known that I had hep B. Even then, no one told me what I should do about it, and so neither the doctor nor myself paid it much attention. I certainly didn’t know that my son should get a vaccination for hep B within 12 hours of his birth, so it was very lucky that he was not also infected.

The discrimination against my hep B status began to impact my friendships

After migrating, in 2000, to Sydney from China, a very good friend of mine offered tremendous support to help me with my settlement. Australia was such a new environment and her help was very much appreciated. But, one day, without warning, she just walked away from me when she saw me… and never spoke to me again. She instantly became like a stranger to me.

Then I realised it was because she must have known about my hep B status. She and I went to the same doctor, and I believe she found out through there. This hurt a lot, and I was very sad about the loss of our long-term friendship. After this, I never told other friends that I had hep B and, even carried my own cutlery (even though the virus cannot be passed on through a shared eating utensil!).

The health effects of hep B became too much for me

Later, I had a breakout of hep B, and my liver function tests showed that the virus might be damaging my liver. The doctor prescribed anti-viral medication, which helped to get my blood indicators back to normal. The doctor said I needed to take this treatment every day for the rest of my life, otherwise the virus would most likely become resistant to the medicine.

While I have followed the doctor’s advice, concerns over my health and the social pressures of living with hep B have had a dramatic effect on my personality. I became withdrawn and began to lose too much weight.

Joining Hepatitis NSW activities turned my life around!

Luckily, all this has now changed. I got to know Hepatitis NSW, joined in their activities with the Sydney Chinese community and even became a Hep B speaker! Having now acquired more knowledge about hepatitis, I am confident that people living with hep B can lead a long and healthy life. More so, I know that while those who have hep B should encourage people close to them to get tested, they also have the right to keep their personal health matters private.

I have shared my experience with a great number of people from different communities and a variety of backgrounds. This, along with being an active participant in dancing activities, has greatly improved my mental wellbeing. I’ve even regained that lost weight!

Published 10 September, 2020

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Media Release | Reducing the burden of hepatitis on World Hepatitis Day

Reducing the burden of hepatitis on World Hepatitis DayTens of thousands of people in NSW are living with viral hepatitis. Of greatest concern are hep B and hep C – two viruses that can become life-long chronic conditions, eventually leading to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and sadly, all too often, death. A significant percentage of people living with hep B or hep C are unaware they have it. Even where people know their status, many thousands experience barriers to accessing healthcare, treatment, or cure.

What is the significance of World Hepatitis Day?

World Hepatitis Day is an important event to highlight these issues and drive better outcomes. NSW Hepatitis Awareness Week starts on Monday 27 July, with World Hepatitis Day on Tuesday 28 July. A key activity for this year is the roll out of the bright, eye-catching artwork – wall posters, street pole posters, pull up banners, and pubs and clubs washroom advertising – throughout New South Wales. The messaging focuses on the availability and effectiveness of new hep C treatments.

For hep B, while there is currently no cure, babies born in Australia are vaccinated against it; also, any adult who needs to be vaccinated can be. Hep B testing is available and encouraged for anyone from an at-risk group. Should a person be found to be living with hep B they can have regular monitoring of their liver health, and, if required, treatment to manage their viral load.

For hep C, all Australians over the age of 12 have access to effective and affordable direct acting antiviral (DAA) cures. Hep C treatment is available through local doctors. Community organisations and government agencies work to raise awareness of the cure and help people into and through treatment.

70,000 Australians have been cured of hepatitis C since 2016

Being cured of hep C can improve quality of life. Many people who have finished their course of treatment report feeling greater levels of energy and alertness.

Since the DAAs became available in Australia in 2016, more than 70,000 Australians have been cured of hepatitis C.

Hepatitis NSW CEO, Mr Steven Drew said the medications have a cure rate of 95 per cent. “They can be prescribed by any general practitioner, as well as authorised nurse practitioners. Cure is usually achieved within 8 or 12 weeks, with minimal or no side-effects.”

“These oral pill treatments have offered a revolutionary opportunity,” said Mr Drew. “It is important that people see their health professional to be treated and get their best life back. While hepatitis C initially has almost no symptoms, if left untreated it can ultimately result in significant liver disease.”

We have the rare opportunity to eliminate a chronic disease

Mr Drew said testing for hepatitis C was simple and easy as getting your GP to do a blood test.

“We’ve all led varied and adventurous lives filled with new experiences. It may be that some, or one, of those experiences exposed us to the chance of hepatitis C transmission. The only way to know for sure is to see your GP to have a blood test for hep C.”

“Should you learn you do have hep C, please seriously consider commencing treatment and get cured,” said Mr Drew.

“It is not often we get the chance to eliminate a chronic disease, but we have that opportunity now with hepatitis C,” said Mr Drew. “I encourage anyone who hasn’t yet sought out this medication to explore their treatment options,” adding that Hepatitis NSW could provide information and support to anyone living with, or affected by hepatitis including family and friends of people living with hepatitis C.

“I encourage people to contact the Hepatitis NSW Infoline on 1800 803 990 for more information about the treatment options available or hepatitis generally. You can also contact us using our online chat function on our website hep.org.au.”

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10 Facts about viral hepatitis for World Hepatitis Day!

10 Facts about viral hepatitis for World Hepatitis Day!

This article was written by Dr Alice Lee , Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, Concord Repatriation General Hospital.

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day, marking a day where community organisations, clinicians, researchers, and governments raise awareness to the global burden of viral hepatitis. This year’s theme is “finding the missing millions” – in recognition of the many people around the world unaware they are living with hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C.

Did you know the date of World Hepatitis Day is also the birthday of Nobel prize winner Dr Baruch Blumberg? He not only discovered the hepatitis B virus, but also developed a diagnostic test and vaccine for the virus.

Here are ten more facts about hepatitis…

1. There are 5 viruses that predominantly affect the liver…hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E

They are all different viruses and are transmitted through different pathways. Hepatitis A and E are mostly spread through faecal-oral route and are preventable by hand hygiene and careful food preparation. Hepatitis A is more common in Korean communities and is also vaccine preventable. Hepatitis B is spread through blood and body fluids, hepatitis C through blood to blood contact. Hepatitis D only occurs in people infected with hepatitis B and is uncommon in Korean patients.

2. There are over 300 million people in the world that live with viral hepatitis

Less than 20% of the people with the virus are aware that they have the infection. The prevalence rates of hepatitis vary throughout the world, some areas have high rates of hepatitis B of over 10%. Higher rates of hepatitis B are seen in older Koreans born before vaccination programs were available.

3. More than 1.5 million people die each year from viral hepatitis

Many people are unaware of their diagnosis until the very late stages of disease and are often too late to be saved. Causes of death include acute liver failure, but the most common cause of death is liver cancer. Described as a ‘silent killer’, those unaware of their status may only have symptoms when the disease is very advanced and when options of treatment are very limited. It’s important to know your status!

4. Prevention of hepatitis remains central in eliminating viral hepatitis

Vaccines are available for both hepatitis B and for hepatitis A. Hepatitis B vaccine is now a part of Australia’s childhood vaccination schedule, starting at birth. It is safe for people of any age to have, even when pregnant. All people should be vaccinated. Know your status and get vaccinated if you are not protected. Those who are family members or partners of positive patients can access free vaccines through NSW health. Ask your doctor.

5. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are transmitted through blood

Avoid sharing IV needles/syringes, razor blades and toothbrushes. It is safe to share meals, hug your family and friends. Stigma and discrimination is not acceptable. Talk to your health care provider if you have any concerns.

6. Hepatitis B, C, and D can lead to chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer

Many people can continue to have a healthy and normal life without realising their liver is being damaged. It is essential that, if you are at risk, you see your doctor regularly and get checkups. Taking care of yourself is also very important, in addition to getting vaccinated, avoid excess alcohol and do not smoke, take care not to take medications that can cause liver injury. Focus on a healthy diet, exercise and stay lean.

7. Hepatitis B can be treated

Treatment, for those who require it, is available in the form of an oral tablet. If you are living with hepatitis B, your doctor will assess whether you need treatment based on blood tests, your history and other test results. Even if you do not need treatment, you may need treatment later. Lifelong checkups are needed.

8. Hepatitis C can be cured

People with hepatitis C virus – confirmed with a PCR test – are eligible for treatment in Australia. Tablets are taken for 8 or 12 weeks and the treatment cures more than 95% of cases. Ask your doctor about this!!

9. Beware immune suppression

If you have a medical condition that requires immune suppression, you may be at risk of hepatitis B reactivation (meaning an increase in virus activity in the liver). Know your status and ask your doctor.

10. People with viral hepatitis can be at increased risk of liver cancer

Screening can lead to early detection and curative treatment. Liver cancer is the most common cause of death in patients with hepatitis B. It is asymptomatic and the only way to diagnose it early is by screening. If you have hepatitis B, you may need screening. This is simple, using an ultrasound on a six-monthly basis. It could save your life. High risk groups include older people, those with advanced disease (liver cirrhosis) and a family history of liver cancer. Treatment is available.

Celebrate World Hepatitis Day by spreading awareness about viral hepatitis

You or someone close to you, loved ones can be impacted by hepatitis. Celebrate World Hepatitis Day as a hepatitis community to increase awareness, talk about hepatitis and address the ongoing challenges of increasing prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

You, or someone you know could be one of the “missing millions” … you can play a part in “finding” them. You could save a life – yours, or someone you love.

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Hepatitis B was no barrier to having a baby

Hep B no barrier to having a baby

Image: Adobe Stock

Amanda, one of our Hepatitis Speakers, has written a guest blog post about her experience of living with hepatitis B. 한국어로 읽기

I did not understand what effect hepatitis B would have on the rest of my life

I first found out that I had hepatitis B when I was a student at high school in South Korea. Since I was only then a teenager, I did not understand what effect hepatitis B would have on the rest of my life. At that time, hep B information was not well disseminated to people in my country, so my family vaguely thought it had to do with having unhealthy livers. Unfortunately, it was much worse than that and, because of hepatitis B, I lost my grandmother, my aunt and, finally, my father.

I didn’t know much about the virus or how it was transmitted

After school, I went to college and studied Early Childhood Education. Although I was able to complete the course, it was believed there was a possibility my hep B virus could be transmitted to children, and I was not able to become a kindergarten teacher. This was very upsetting, and I had to find a different kind of work. After much searching, I discovered I was interested in – and good at – baking, so I eventually got a job in a bakery. Even so, I was still worried about transmitting hepatitis B. As I mentioned, I didn’t know much about the virus or how it was passed on, and I was concerned about making and handling food. If only I’d known then what I know now, I would not have worried as much!

I worried a lot and feared that my baby might also get hepatitis B

A few years later, I moved to Australia, met my loved one here, got married and, last year, had a beautiful son.

While I was expecting, I worried a lot and feared that the baby might also get my hepatitis. Fortunately, the hospital staff knew better. They gave me special care, continuously monitoring and managing my hep B, along with my pregnancy.

On the day my son came into the world, the midwife and the nurse put him, still covered in blood, on my stomach so he could feel my warm skin. But I screamed at them “Don’t you know I have hep B? Please go and give him his injection right now!” I needn’t have panicked though. They explained the first immunoglobulin injection, for a newborn baby of a mum with hepatitis B, can be done within the first 12 hours. After I spent a short while with my little boy, the nurses took him, washed him and gave him the injection. It was then I was happily able to hold him in my arms.

A baby who has a mum with hepatitis B will need a total of four vaccine injections

Raising a baby has not been easy. The doctor has told me that even a mum with hepatitis B can breastfeed her baby, but I have still been a little nervous while breastfeeding him. I am most mindful of blood. When I had a wound once, I put my son far away from me and treated my bleeding carefully.

A baby who has a mum with hepatitis B will need a total of four hepatitis B vaccine injections. At birth, then in six weeks, in four months and, finally, in six months. My son has finished all four but has not yet been tested for antibodies as he is not one year old. I am optimistic that his body has generated antibodies and immunity against hepatitis B since we have done everything we needed to. We are waiting for good news, but I cannot help but still be a bit anxious.

Because I am raising a baby, I have become more cautious about others too. I know that I cannot pass on hep B through casual contact, but I now ask parents of babies about vaccinations and hep B status. I do not want them thinking or saying that their child could get hep B from me.

I am proud to see my son grow up healthy

I am proud to see my son grow up healthy and without any major problems. I will make sure that I have regular monitoring of my liver every six months and am hopeful of a long healthy life with my loving family.

For any person living with hepatitis B, I would say to them that you can monitor your liver function every six months. You will only ever have to take medication for hep B if recommended. By doing this you can live as well as people without the virus. It is good for your peace of mind!

Published 20 May, 2020

Amanda has excitedly notified us that her one year old son now has antibodies against hepatitis B. That means he is immune to hep B for life. Congratulations, Amanda and your son! Your vigilance and proper knowledge has paid off!
[25 May, 2020]

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What is World Hepatitis Day?

What is World Hepatitis Day? On July 28 every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) sponsors World Hepatitis Day, a global alert around viral hepatitis. Prevention, diagnosis and treatment are promoted through free hepatitis testing screenings, information campaigns, entertainment, media engagement and vaccination drives.

Why recognise World Hepatitis Day?

Millions of people worldwide are affected by viral hepatitis, with tens of thousands dying every year. Of greatest concern are hep B and hep C – two viruses that can become life-long chronic conditions, eventually leading to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and, all too often, death. A significant percentage of people living with hep B or hep C are unaware they have it. Even where people know their status, hundreds of thousands are unable to access healthcare, treatment, or cure. World Hepatitis Day is an important event to highlight these issues and drive better outcomes.

Why is hepatitis still a problem?

Around the world, the toll on liver health and the number of deaths caused by hep B and hep C varies sharply from country to country. Some countries are much more able to address viral hepatitis for their people. Poorer outcomes are due to poverty, social inequalities, inadequate information, stigma and discrimination, struggling public health systems, ineffective government policy and/or the lack of political will. Despite advances in medicine and treatment, there is no single easy solution for eliminating hep B and hep C.

How does Australia compare?

Fortunately, in terms of elimination of viral hepatitis, Australia is one of the leading countries in the world. Australia has strong health policies, programs, campaigns, and services as part of an effective strategy to address viral hepatitis.

How is Australia addressing hepatitis C?

For hep C, all Australians over the age of 12 have access to effective and affordable direct acting antiviral (DAA) cures. Treatment is available through local doctors. There are services, such as Needle Syringe Programs, that help reduce risk of transmission. Community organisations and government agencies work to raise awareness of the cure and help people into and through treatment.

How is Australia’s strategy to address hepatitis B performing?

For hep B, while there is currently no cure, babies born in Australia are vaccinated against it; also, any adult who needs to be vaccinated can be. Testing is available and encouraged for anyone from an at-risk group. Should a person be found to be living with hep B they can have regular monitoring of their liver health, and, if required, treatment to manage their viral load.

What is the impact of hepatitis-related stigma and discrimination?

is doing well but there are still issues of stigma and discrimination which prevent or deter people from accessing testing and treatment. Many people remain unaware of the lifesaving treatment options available to them. Myths and misconceptions about transmission and treatment persist in some communities.

Are we ensuring equal access to health services and programs?

While health services are usually easily accessible for most people in the capital cities, that is not the case for regional and remote communities. Poverty and disadvantage significantly impact the ability of too many Australians to access services. The lack of Needle Syringe Programs in prisons leads to greater hep C infection and re-infection rates amongst prisoners. These areas, and others, need work if Australia is to succeed in eliminating viral hepatitis.

How is World Hepatitis Day observed in Australia?

Across Australia, the day is supported by many government agencies, non-government organisations, clinicians, researchers, and communities. They might hold events, education sessions, display banners or posters, or talk to the media. Hepatitis organisations, similar to Hepatitis NSW, exist in every state, territory and federally; World Hepatitis Day marks a particularly busy time of campaign work, and community and stakeholder engagement for us.

In addition to World Hepatitis Day, New South Wales holds Hepatitis Awareness Week over the seven days leading up to and including July 28. This is sponsored by NSW Health and allows community organisations, Local Health Districts (LHDs), and prison clinics across the state to highlight hep C and hep B oriented messages, services and events for their respective communities.

Unfortunately, for 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic will overshadow World Hepatitis Day and NSW Hepatitis Awareness Week. At this stage we cannot say for certain which events or campaigns and services will be promoted in late July. Keep an eye on our social media, events calendar and The Champion for regular updates.

A final thought

Viral hepatitis exists year in, year out, and World Hepatitis Day itself isn’t going to be a cure-all, nor is it meant to be. July 28 acts as a focus for international and local efforts in elimination – to applaud the successes, to highlight existing need, and advocate for changes.

Hep facts

  • July 28 celebrates the birthdate of Baruch Samuel Blumberg, discoverer of the hepatitis B virus.
  • World Hepatitis Day is one of only eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • There are currently five different hepatitis viruses – A, B, C, D, and E. Each one can significantly impact liver health and, in some cases, lead to death. In Australia, only hep B and hep C are significant community issues.
  • Hepatitis D – which only occurs in people with advanced cases of hepatitis B – and hepatitis A, and hepatitis E – both mainly transmitted via faecal contamination in water, or unwashed hands – are all rare in Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

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Chinese Community Leaders Forum: “Hepatitis B – Why bother?”

Hepatitis NSW Chinese Community Leaders Forum – which is funded by WentWest, the Western Sydney Primary Health Network – was held on 31 October, 2018 at Castle Hill RSL. The event attracted 33 prominent leaders from the Chinese community and was part of an ongoing partnership with Western Sydney Local Health District to tackle hepatitis B in our community.

The event educated community leaders and highlighted the importance of hepatitis B testing, monitoring and treatment in the Chinese community.

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