Persons at high risk of contracting the liver infection Hepatitis A can now receive a free immunization vaccine in a new program announced by Coast Garibaldi Health.
The target populations include people with the Hepatitis C virus, injection drug users (IDU) and men who have sex with other men (MSM).
Hepatitis A is caused by a virus found in the bowels of infected persons and in contaminated water and food. The authority says many people who have hepatitis A may not know they are ill but are still able to spread the virus. It says Hepatitis C sufferers are 50 per cent more susceptible to HAV infection and serious liver injury.
Likewise IDUs are at high risk of chronic liver disease. In British Columbia injection drug use was the second most frequently reported risk factor for HAV in a non-outbreak situation, according to the authority. And there have also been two documented Hepatitis A outbreaks in the MSM population.
In order to qualify for the provincially funded vaccine, you must be an IDU, MSM, have documented evidence of HCV positivity, or be a hemophiliac receiving plasma derived replacement clotting factors. For local appointments contact Coast Garibaldi Health in Whistler at 932-3202, in Squamish at 892-2293 and in Pemberton at 894-6367.