This comprehensive article which came out October 31, 2018, describes the challenges and impacts of hepatitis B and C on the aging population in Britain. It seems applicable to Canada as well.

While we couldn’t access the longer version of the article, takeaways from the abstract included:

  • Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C are spread through blood, are viruses, and can cause acute hepatitis (short-lasting but serious liver infection/inflammation). Both can also develop into chronic hepatitis (long-term, slowly-developing liver and extra-hepatic disease), either with or without an acute phase preceding the chronic one. Therefore, people can have the chronic form for many years without knowing it.
  • Chronic hepatitis C (CHC) can have serious complications; however, it can now be easily cured in most cases. A cure can stop the liver damage, and in many cases it will slowly reverse.
  • Chronic hepatitis B (CHB) can also have serious complications; however, these are preventable with treatment and regular monitoring.
  • Liver failure and liver cancer (HCC) are both deadly, and can result from either CHB or CHC.
  • It is important to test elders for hepatitis B, C, and other blood-borne viruses.
  • In particular, aging groups who are at risk and should particularly be targeted for testing include:
    • Those who have ever been given blood or blood products (particularly pre-1992 in North America, even more recently in many other countries)
    • Those who have ever been on dialysis
    • Those who have ever used IV drugs
    • Those who have ever had multiple sex partners
    • Those who are men who have ever engaged in sex with men (MSM)

HepCBC’s note: To avoid questions which may trigger feelings of stigma, it is probably better to simply encourage all seniors to get tested at least once. If known to currently be engaging in risky behaviours, seniors should be offered testing more regularly.

Title: “New Horizons in hepatitis B and C in the older adult”
Published by: British Geriatrics Society, Oct. 31, 2018
Authors: Linda Kemp, Kathleen E Clare, Paul N Brennan, John F Dillon
Abstract and link to article: https://academic.oup.com/ageing/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/ageing/afy170/5149918