Hepatitis C is a disease that affects the liver. Many people with untreated hepatitis C will develop cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. In Australia about 12% of hepatitis C infections are among people born overseas.
Many people with hepatitis C don’t show symptoms, and also most migrants do not need a hepatitis C test before coming to Australia (except people who want to work or study to be a doctor, nurse, dentist and paramedic in Australia). Therefore, many migrants may have the infection and not know about it. The World Health Organisation states that globally an estimated 71 million people are living with chronic hepatitis C but only 19% know they have it. (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-c).
Hepatitis C in the general Australian population is mainly caused through the sharing of equipment for taking intravenous drugs. However, many people born overseas in Australia were infected with hepatitis C due to blood transfusions, unsterile medical (including traditional medical) practices, and treatments such as, dental procedures, acupuncture, blood-letting, cupping. Additionally, body modification and beautification e.g., minor surgical procedures, tattooing, piercings etc may also increase the risk of becoming infected. This is particularly the case where equipment may be re-used between people, or not appropriately sterilised. Sharing of toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers can also spread the infection.
Cleaning is not enough to kill the virus. Tiny amounts of blood (not able to be seen) infected with the virus, can cause another person to become infected if it enters their blood.
As people with hepatitis C normally don’t show any symptoms, the only way to find out is to have a specific test. GPs can order the test for you and they can also generally prescribe a short course of medication that can CURE the infection if you have hepatitis C. This can greatly reduce or stop you from developing liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
If you were born overseas and you don’t know if you have ever been tested for hepatitis C you should ask your GP to check, it is a simple blood test.
ECCQ’s Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and Sexual Health Program can provide free Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and STIs information, resources and support in different languages:
Phone: 07 3844 9166
You can also contact our staff directly who speaks your language:
|Staff Name||Language we speak||Phone|
|Angeline||French, Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, English||0481 838 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Christine||Acholi, Juba Arabic, Swahili, English||0479 036 email@example.com|
|Daniel||Dinka, Arabic, Juba Arabic, English||0479 062 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Evelyn||Burmese, English||0481 827 email@example.com|
|Iqbal||Dari, English||0419 468 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Lazaro||Swahili, Kirundi, English||0479 153 email@example.com|
|Samantha||Chinese, English||0479 130 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Tam||Vietnamese, English||0428 223 email@example.com|
If you live in Cairns, you can also contact:
HIV, Viral Hepatitis, Sexual Health Coordinator
Cairns Sexual Health Service
381 Sheridan St, Cairns North, QLD, 4870
Phone: 07 4226 4760