10 Sep 2012

Bigger effort needed on hepatitis

1:17 pm on 10 September 2012

Health Minister Tony Ryall says New Zealand is taking important steps to combat hepatitis, but needs to do even more.

He told a conference on hepatitis in Auckland on Monday that 150,000 people in New Zealand have the disease and most do not know it.

Mr Ryall told the Australasian Hepatitis Conference that 300 New Zealanders die of hepatitis a year.

He said most of those living with the hepatitis B or C virus don't realise they have it, because the viruses show no symptoms for years.

Mr Ryall said people don't know they can live longer and healthier lives with the right support and treatment, which can be given in the community if it's detected early.

Liver cancer rates expected to rise

Rates of liver cancer in New Zealand are predicted to soar over the next decade unless action is taken to curb viral hepatitis infections.

Australian and New Zealand liver specialists are to call on Monday on both Governments, health departments and clinicians to commit to doubling the number of people receiving treatment for hepatitis B and C by 2016.

New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit deputy director Dr Edward Gane says the increase in liver cancer is due to chronic hepatitis B and C infections which account for about 75% of all liver cancers in both countries.

It is thought more than half a million Australians and New Zealanders are living with both strands of the virus, although in New Zealand about half are undiagnosed.