In honour of World Hepatitis Day, Niagara Health’s Hepatitis C Care clinic is hosting a pair of events aimed at spreading awareness about the virus.
The first event takes place at Montebello Park in St. Catharines on July 22, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The second will be on World Hepatitis Day, July 28, and will take place at St. Andrews United Church in Niagara Falls from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Hepatitis C is a virus spread from blood-to-blood contact.
The virus attacks the liver and, if left untreated, can result in the development of cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.
Brenda Yeandle, Niagara Health’s manager of clinical services in addiction services and mental health, said people infected with Hepatitis C may not even know it.
“It is also something that’s a little sneaky because you can have Hepatitis C have contracted it and not really know because the symptoms may not come up. You may not feel any different, but be carrying the disease,” she said. “We always encourage people not to share sharps, you know, razors, anything where there’s that possibility of having even older blood contact with your blood.”
She said Niagara has a higher Hepatitis C rate per 100,000 than the rest of the province.
“We’re not really able to identify the reason, of course, since there’s so many factors involved. But yes, we do have a higher prevalence here in Niagara,” she said. “So it is really important that we are talking about this and encouraging people to get tested.”
The goal of these events, she said is to spread awareness and provide services such as testing.
At these events, Yeandle said while Hepatitis C is the focus, other organizations will be on-site as well.
“What we do is bring community partners and service providers together in this one location so that people that might benefit from learning more about Hep C or mental health and addiction or just the services that we have available in this region, they can come together in one spot to learn more,” she said adding that they’ll have 33 different community partners at Montebello including the GO VAXX Bus, REACH Niagara, dental services, and more.
The last time they were able to hold an event for World Hepatitis Day was in 2019, and Yeandle said about 600 people visited.
She’s looking forward to meeting people face-to-face again.
“Our services have felt very fractured during COVID,” she said. With isolation and some of the, the mechanisms we had to put in place to keep people safe.So I think what’s very exciting is that we’re able to host this in-person event this year.”
The Hepatitis C Care clinic opened in 2011 and provides testing, treatment, case management, counselling and support, and education and workshops.
For more information, visit, niagarahealth.on.ca/site/hepatitis-c-care