Western Sydney innovates to cure hepatitis C for some 82,000 Australians

Tomas Tu, senior research scientist, and Kristen McKee, clinical nurse consultant, are part of the team making it easier for those at risk of Hepatitis C in western Sydney.

Dozens of people living with hepatitis C infection are getting the treatment they need thanks to innovative outreach methods run by Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD).

July 26 to August 1 is Hepatitis Awareness Week and the theme this year is Hep can’t wait.

Hepatitis C – or hep C – is an easily-cured liver infection that can lead to liver cancer and death if left untreated.

The virus is spread through blood-to-blood contact, such as through sharing injecting equipment or unsterile tattoo equipment, and can go unnoticed for many years before symptoms appear.

To help reach those at higher risk of infection, WSLHD partnered with the Storr Liver Centre to provide screening for mental health consumers and intravenous drug users in the community.

Hepatology clinical nurse consultant Kristen McKee said the programs were all about making it easier for those at risk to access medical care.

Hepatology clinical nurse consultant Kristen McKee.

“Between the two programs we have screened nearly 900 people and diagnosed 54 cases of viral hep C that would otherwise have gone undetected far longer,” Kristen said.

“We also detected cases of hep B and syphilis, provided hep B vaccination, and in follow-up treatment one consumer was diagnosed with liver cancer and is now receiving treatment.

“In addition to screening, the outreach programs also gave us an opportunity to provide education and help people minimise their risk.”

More than 82,000 Australians have been cured of hep C. New treatments have a greater than 95% cure rate and mean taking just one tablet daily for 8-12 weeks with no or minimal side effects.

Westmead Health Precinct is home to transformative research to treat hepatitis and support survivors:

– Hitting the streets: Revolutionary new project helping to end Hepatitis C

– Help is here: Westmead researcher with hepatitis B launches world-first support forum

– A great honour: Jacob George awarded for lifetime of work in liver health

Learn more about the risk factors and treatment available at the Hepatitis NSW website.