Vince Fragomeli, Clinical Nurse Consultant
Curing Hep C is easy and free
22 Feb 2019
Over 2,000 people in the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District are unnecessarily living with Hepatitis C because they either don’t know they have it or they mistakenly believe treatments are still ineffective and difficult to complete.
Hepatitis C is curable in over 95 percent of cases, but left untreated the blood borne virus can potentially cause severe liver damage says Clinical Nurse Consultant Vince Fragomeli, who treats patients free of charge at NBMLHD liver clinics.
“Of the 2,700 people estimated to be living with Hep C in our region, only 380 people have so far commenced treatment despite Hepatitis C being a curable condition,” says Mr Fragomeli, who runs clinics at Nepean, Blue Mountains and Lithgow hospitals.
“For most of our patients an 8 to 12 week course of oral medication, one tablet each day, can clear their body of Hep C and stop the virus from causing further liver damage,” says Mr Fragomeli.
"Since early 2016 a new class of drugs to treat Hepatitis C called direct acting antivirals, provide a much more effective treatment with minimal side effects. There’s no need for injections.”
Mr Fragomeli says a blood test three months after the end of the course of treatment will confirm if it’s been successful.
“For the few patients who don’t respond to the initial treatment we do have other options to help them and new drugs, which may work for them, will be available in the near future.
"The most important factor is for people to be tested and start their treatment as soon as possible," says Mr Fragomeli.
"Hepatitis C can initially have few symptoms but the virus can do great damage to the liver over time. The sooner the virus is cleared, the less damage inflicted on the liver and a better long term outcome and prognosis for the patient.”
For Vanessa (not her real name) the Hepatitis C virus lay hidden in her body silently destroying her liver, until a serious bacterial infection landed her in intensive care.
Unusual lab results led her clinicians to run tests for Hepatitis C. She was positive.
Vanessa spent nine days in ICU and was enrolled in the Liver Clinic for Hep C treatment.
“I’m now completely cured,” says Vanessa. “It’s so easy to get tested and seek treatment – it’s free.
“I know what it’s like to get a positive result – it’s scary, but the staff at the Liver Clinic were so helpful.
“You’ve got to see the treatment through. I felt better and better as the treatment progressed.
"The end result is fantastic. I’m cured," says Vanessa.
“For too long Hepatitis C has been hidden. I encourage people to talk to their doctor or the Liver Clinic and get tested."
Hepatitis C is transmitted when blood, even a drop smaller than visible to the eye, from a person living with the virus enters the blood stream of an uninfected person.
Transmission can occur during procedures that pierce the skin and have not followed correct infection control processes, for example:
- sharing needles
- some medical or dental procedures.
Since 1990, having a blood transfusion in Australia has been very safe. All blood donated has been screened for Hepatitis C, but if you had a transfusion prior to that time, there may be a small risk.
The NBMLHD’s Everybody Live Well website, has a quick and easy self-assessment tool to check if you are at risk of Hepatitis C.
The NBMLHD Liver Clinic can be contacted on 02 4734 3466