News Release Archive

HEALTH--Update on Hepatitis C Campaign
Letters will be mailed this week to Nova Scotians traced through
the province's hepatitis C notification campaign.

The letters advise the recipients to consult with their doctor
about testing for hepatitis C. Included with each letter are
general questions and answers on hepatitis C and a laboratory
form for the recipient to take to the doctor.

"The aim of these letters is to inform people of their potential
risk and to encourage them to seek testing," said Health Minister
Jim Smith. "We can all make better decisions about our personal
health when we have as much information as possible."

The province's hepatitis C notification campaign was launched in
June to trace Nova Scotians who may have been exposed to
hepatitis C through blood products between 1984 and 1990, and
even earlier for children. Over the summer, records searches were
conducted at the QEII Health Sciences Centre and other hospitals
in the province.

"We are pleased with the progress of the notification campaign,"
said Dr. Jeff Scott, provincial medical officer of health. Dr.
Scott is also the chairman of the steering committee organizing
the campaign.

"The 8,129 letters mailed out this week are the first stage in
notification," said Dr. Scott. "We expect to be able to trace
more people by early 1998 and a second group of letters will be
sent out then."

Experts from the Laboratory Centre for Disease Control in Ottawa
are helping with the computer programs needed to trace more
people who received blood or blood products. There are
approximately 8,000 people living in Nova Scotia who received
transfusions between 1984 and 1990 at a QEII Health Sciences
Centre site but who could not be traced for the first mail-out.
As well, more work is needed to make matches with the blood
records at the IWK-Grace Health Centre and other hospitals in
Nova Scotia.

"That's why raising general public awareness of the risk of
hepatitis C is so important," said Dr. Scott. "If you think you
or your child may have been exposed to hepatitis C, ask your
doctor and find out more about testing."

It is estimated that between 4,000 and 10,000 Nova Scotians have
hepatitis C. Most people were exposed to the disease, and
continue to be exposed, by sharing needles or other equipment
used to inject street drugs or steroids. The diseases is also
spread by sharing drug-snorting equipment.

The launch of the notification campaign in June prompted an
increase in testing for hepatitis C in Nova Scotia. To date,
1,056 Nova Scotians have tested positive for hepatitis C, up from
763 cases as of June.

Information on hepatitis C and on the provincial notification
campaign have been mailed to physicians across the province.

For more information on hepatitis C, call 1-800-430-9557 to speak
with a public health nurse.


Contact: Lori MacLean
         Department of Health

NOTE TO EDITORS: A fact sheet on hepatitis C is available by
e-mailing or calling 902-424-4492.

ngr                 Oct. 20, 1997                   12:35 pm