Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 07, 2014 - 4:10 pm

Pauktuutit launches Inuit-language campaign against hepatitis C

May is National Aboriginal Hepatitis C awareness month.

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada and the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network have partnered to help Inuit understand more about hepatitis C. (IMAGE COURTESY OF PAUKTUUTIT)
Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada and the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network have partnered to help Inuit understand more about hepatitis C. (IMAGE COURTESY OF PAUKTUUTIT)

May is National Aboriginal Hepatitis C awareness month.

Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada and the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network have partnered to help spread awareness of the virus among Inuit by offering health information in Inuktitut.

Hepatitis C is a chronic liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) – a microbe that has infected an estimated 242,500 Canadians.

And it’s a concern among Aboriginal people; researchers believe that infection rates for hepatitis C among Inuit and First Nations could be as high as 18 per cent, compared to about two per cent for other Canadians.

“Poor health, poverty, low education, limited housing, high unemployment, and sanitation problems are important factors that promote the spread of hepatitis C infections among Aboriginal people,” Pauktuutit said in a release. “Aboriginal prisoners in Canada’s jails may be at greater risk due to the high rates of infection among this population.

“As well, researchers have identified the previous widespread use of non-disposable medical equipment as a potential cause for hepatitis C infections among Inuit.”

Although the number of Inuit infected with the virus is not clear, Pauktuutit launched this month’s campaign as part of its five-year plan to learn more about the infection and how it affects Inuit.

Hepatitis C is spread through infected blood to blood contact. Seventy to 80 per cent of infections are believed to be transmitted through injection drug use and sharing of contaminated needles.

But hepatitis C can also be spread by unprotected sexual activity, or being born to an infected mother.

Because hepatitis C progresses slowly, most infected people experience no symptoms and remain unaware for many years after being infected.

Symptoms of an infective might include fatigue, lethargy, reduced appetite, sore muscles and joints, abdominal pain and jaundice, a yellowing of the skin.

If left untreated, hepatitis C can progress to cirrhosis, which causes severe damage to the liver, and can cause cancer of the liver.

The only way to determine if you’re been infected is to go to your local health centre to have a blood test. Treatments are available for infected people.

“This is the first year for this awareness campaign but the plan is to make this an annual national campaign,” Pauktuutit said. “The more communities learn about this virus the better they will be able to protect themselves and those they love.”

For more information on hepatitis C for Inuttitut speakers in Nunavik, click here.

Follow the links here for information in Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun.

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