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Local health unit reports increase in hepatitis B cases

NEWS RELEASE ALGOMA HEALTH UNIT *********************** The Algoma Health Unit would like to inform the residents of Algoma that we are noting an increase in the number of cases of acute hepatitis B.
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NEWS RELEASE

ALGOMA HEALTH UNIT

*********************** The Algoma Health Unit would like to inform the residents of Algoma that we are noting an increase in the number of cases of acute hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B is a viral disease that affects the liver.

Symptoms include jaundice or yellowing of the skin, weakness, vomiting, mild fever, abdominal discomfort, achy joints and rashes and in some cases, people will have no symptoms at all.

Hepatitis B is spread in the following ways:

• sexual contact with an infected person • contact with infected blood (need a route of entry like a crack in the skin)

• sharing needles • sharing toothbrushes or razor blades • receiving a bite from an infected person • body piercing or tattooing. Always ensure the artist uses a new needle, straight out of the package

Engaging in these activities also puts you at risk for other blood-borne illnesses such as hepatitis C, HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

Hepatitis B is not spread by water, food or by casual contact that occurs at most schools or workplaces.

"You can protect yourself from contracting hepatitis B," explains Liisa Daoust, a public health nurse at the Algoma Health Unit. "Do not have unprotected sex, especially with people who have multiple partners, practise safer sex by using a latex condom all the time and if you are an IV drug user, use clean needles all the time and take advantage of the free needle exchange program."

Some people may be eligible to receive a free hepatitis B vaccine.

If you belong to one of the following groups, you are eligible for the free vaccine:

• intravenous drug users

• multiple sex partners

• have a recent history of a sexually transmitted infection

• have hepatitis C

The hepatitis B vaccine is offered to all Grade 7 students in Algoma.

Public health nurses go into the school setting and administer the vaccine to consenting students in a series of two shots.

This week, health unit staff will be placing posters in area bars/restaurants promoting steps people can take to protect themselves.

"We are being very proactive in our outreach by visiting local establishments," explains Daoust.

To book an appointment for the hepatitis B vaccine, please call (705) 541-7085.

If you have any questions or concerns about hepatitis B, please call the Infection Control program at the Algoma Health Unit at (705) 759-5285.

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