Hepatitis C might be on the rise locally, according to a new report from the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit. Part of the problem comes from a reluctance to seek help based on the slow progression of the disease.
At Wednesday’s Board of Health meeting, the 2015 infectious disease report was presented by the health unit’s epidemiologist, Stanley Ing, and its program manager of clinic services, Stacy Rybansky.
Three infectious diseases saw their numbers exceed the precedent five-year average in 2015 — Influenza, Salmonella, and Hepatitis C.
“We can only speculate as to why the rate is higher,” Rybansky said. “We do have increased testing access … whether it’s at our own sites, the methadone clinics that have opened up in Chatham-Kent – there are three, two in Chatham, one in Wallaceburg – we have outreach for the Hepatitis C program in Windsor … so we have had an increase in testing.
“It is somewhat discouraging for our rates to be higher,” she added.
Part of the problem comes from a reluctance to seek help based on the slow progression of the disease, she said. As Hepatitis C and poverty are often correlated it is safe to assume many people with the disease struggle in other aspects of their life, especially related to permanent housing.
Seeking treatment is therefore not a priority, according to Rybansky.
“This is a treatable and curable disease now,” Dr. David Colby added. “It’s not something that people have to have forever … but getting them into treatment and out of the system, this is a huge burden on our community and on the province of Ontario.”