common risks for hepatitis
Below is a list of the more common ways people living in Australia may have been at risk of hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
I had a blood transfusion or received blood products in Australia before 1990
Hepatitis C was not officially classified as an individual virus prior to 1990 and the blood supply in Australia was not routinely screened for hepatitis C. Some people contracted hepatitis C when receiving blood transfusions or receiving other blood products. If you received blood or blood products prior to 1990 and have not been followed up to check if you have hepatitis C then you should speak to your doctor about getting tested.
I had a medical or dental procedure overseas
Not all countries have high levels of infection control like Australia. Having medical procedures or dental work done overseas has become increasingly popular and cost effective for some people. If you have had any kind of invasive procedure done overseas (especially in less developed countries) then you should discuss this with your doctor to see if you need to be tested for blood-borne viruses like hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV.
I received an injection in a country where hygiene was of concern
Unlike Australia, some countries do not have strict rules about using a sterile needle or other injecting equipment when giving an injection. In situations where mass vaccinations or other medicines have been provided to multiple people, the same injecting equipment may have been used making it unsterile. If you have ever received an injection overseas and you were not sure about the sterilisation procedure used or hygiene was of concern then you should speak to your doctor about having tests for hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
I received a tattoo overseas or from someone who was not professionally trained
Most professional tattoo artists in Australia follow strict procedures to ensure your health is not put at risk. This means using sterile equipment and new ink for each person. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Some people get tattoos while overseas in situations where the safety is questionable. Some people also get tattoos from people who have not been professionally trained, such as friends or at tattoo parties. If you have ever had a tattoo from anyone other than a trained professional then you should consider having a tests for hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
I currently inject drugs
Injecting drug use is one of the most common risk factors for getting hepatitis C. It can also be a risk for hepatitis B. The fact someone uses drugs does not mean they have hepatitis. The risk occurs where any equipment used to prepare and inject drugs has been shared with another person. If you inject drugs and have ever shared (even once) any injecting equipment you should have tests for hepatitis B and C if you have not already done so. If you have already tested but have since shared equipment then you should test again.
I have previously injected drugs or shared injecting equipment (even once)
Many people who currently have hepatitis C may have got it many years ago when experimenting with or using drugs, but have not done so for many years. Even if you experimented just once or twice a long while ago and may have shared equipment used to prepare or inject the drug then you should consider getting tested fro both hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
I have shared equipment used to inject steroids or other substances
The use of steroids or other substances to enhance performance often involves the use of injecting equipment. If a person shares their injecting equipment with another person then this can be just as risky as sharing drug injecting equipment when it comes to hepatitis. If you have ever shared injecting equipment (regardless of the substance) then you should get tested fro hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
I originate from a country with poor healthcare
Australia has a diverse and vibrant population and many people have come from countries where access to good healthcare is not readily available. If you do come from a country where healthcare was poor and where hepatitis B or hepatitis C is more common, then it is important you have a test to see if you have been affected. People applying for visas to live permanently in Australia may be concerned about having a test for hepatitis. This can be a difficult decision and is one that can only be made by the individual.
My parents come from a country with poor healthcare
If your parents migrated from a country where there is poor healthcare and a high prevalence of hepatitis then you should consider testing for hepatitis B. Transmission at birth is the most common way of getting hepatitis B for people in migrant communities, especially where birth dose vaccinations for hepatitis B have not been provided. Australian’s from a family who migrated from country where hepatitis is common may be eligible for free hepatitis B vaccinations but this varies between each Australian State and Territory.
I have participated in cutting or blood letting rituals
While cutting and blood letting rituals are not common in Australia these practices can present a high risk of quickly transmitted blood -borne viruses within a group of people. If any person in the group has previously been at risk of hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV they can transmit the viruses to other people in the group. You avoid participating in cutting or blood letting rituals
I have engaged in unprotected sex
Hepatitis B is transmitted by blood and other bodily fluids, such as semen so is considered a sexually transmitted infection as well as a blood borne virus. Hepatitis B can be transmitted during unprotected sex. Men who have sex with men are considered to be at higher risk of hepatitis B. Hepatitis C is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection, however, homosexually active men who have HIV have been known to contract hepatitis C through sexual contacts.