Thursday, February 25, 2021

Hepatitis C: the silent killer

Reading Time: 3 minutesIt isn’t like any other day for 27-year-old Harinder (name changed). He has just tested positive for Hepatitis C.
In the days leading up to this diagnosis, he had developed fatigue, anxiety, depression, flu-like symptoms, and lacking energy. Despite being treated for these, the problems persisted.
Finally, the doctor suggested he take a test for hepatitis C, a viral infection.
“At the moment, 250,000 people in Australia have hepatitis C, excluding the vast majority who don’t even know,” says Dr Puneet Mahindra, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist at Melbourne’s Centre for GI Health.
Not surprising, considering the viral disease rarely displays symptoms apart from general fatigue, if at all. In fact, people with hepatitis can go for decades without showing any signs of having it.
“It is a very slow acting virus so unfortunately many people don’t even realise that they have it – or how they got it,” Dr Mahindra, who sees many patients with hepatitis C, explains. “It is a virus that lives in the blood and affects the liver. If left untreated it can lead to serious liver disease or liver cancer. Unfortunately, those infected might not look or even feel sick till it is very late. That’s why it’s called a ‘silent killer’. Fortunately though, there is a simple test that can tell if you have the virus.”

Blood sample for hepatitis C virus testing

And luckily for Harinder and some 3000 others like him in the Indian community, there is a new cure in the form of tablets.
Hepatitis C is inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). It is a blood borne-disease and spreads through contact with infected blood. HCV does not spread by sneezing, hugging, coughing, food or water, sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, or casual contact.
“Most people get infected through blood transfusion,” says Dr Mahindra. “A patient of mine contracted it after a cosmetic surgery procedure performed overseas. It was possibly a result of improper sterilisation of surgical equipment.”

“Most people don’t even realise that they have it – or
how they got it”

The doctor adds that the numbers of hepatitis C patients are highest in the Indian and Vietnamese community. “Many were unaware of the virus because they were not tested for it in India. The blood transfusions were never tested for Hepatitis C before the 1990s. A lot of developing countries like India and Vietnam did not really start till quite late. In India, there are professional blood donors, who donate blood for money. Many of them have a history of IV drug use, and they have donated blood to multiple people.”
Then there’s the lack of awareness and the general stigma surrounding liver disease. “People don’t seek help until it is really late,” he laments, adding, “I encourage the community to get tested.”
Luckily, general practitioners in Australia are now able to prescribe drugs to treat hepatitis C.
“The new treatments which involves tablets have virtually no side effects and have an efficiency of 95-99%,” Dr Mahindra says.
The simple, safe and effective cure is affordable as it is listed on the government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Dr Mahindra advises, “If you have undergone medical or dental procedures overseas, or have received blood products or transfusions in your country of origin at a time when screening of blood for viruses was not undertaken or was poorly regulated, then get tested. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, just get yourself checked.”
See your doctor or call the National Hepatitis information live on 1800 437 222.

  • Hepatitis C virus is transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person.
  • It can be treated using antiviral medicines
  • There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C
  • Avoid: Unnecessary and unsafe injections, unsafe blood products, drugs and sharing injection equipment, sharing items like razors that may be contaminated with infected blood, tattoos, piercing and acupuncture performed with contaminated equipment.
- Advertisement -
Previous articleBookshelf
Next articleNipah virus contained in Kerala

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Ep 9: What do young Indians want from love?

Growing up in Indian culture, most of us know that love has never been as popular as marriage. Even in the movies, the main...

Ep 8: Indian links in Indigenous Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann’s...

To celebrate NAIDOC week 2020 (between 8-15 November) I spoke to Yakunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann about her time in India where she taught...

Ep 7: In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput

  The torrid and high-octane Sushant Singh Rajput case has been fodder for Indian people and press for the last few months. The actor’s tragic...

Latest News

former liberal staffer dhanya mani (1)

Dhanya Mani on speaking out: “It felt like a moral imperative”

  Trigger warning – sexual harassment The disparity between women and men in every workplace across Australia is well understood, but less understood is the disparity...

Rowing champ Gauri Kotera

  With a streak of wins behind her, 14-year-old Gauri Kotera is now among the top five rowers under 16, in the state of NSW. The...

Raising guide dogs – at home

  As the clock struck midnight this past New Year’s Eve, the Bhandari family in Sydney celebrated in a rather unique way: taking care of...
driving school instructor, sexual harassment

“Hard kisser or soft kisser?”, my driving instructor asked me

  Trigger warning - sexual harassment I needed to pass my driver's test because my learner's license expires in April. As someone who is employed full...

Review: The Big Day (Netflix)

  Reality shows about weddings are nothing new if you consider the success of productions like Say Yes to the Dress, Say I Do, and...