Why is hepatitis C information important to immigrants in Canada?

In Canada, 35% of hepatitis C cases are among immigrants. hepatitis C is more common among immigrants than among Canada’s general population. You may have the virus and not know it because:

  • Few people know about the risks for hepatitis C infection. Worldwide, 40% of Hepatitis C cases are the result of unsafe medical practices, including transfusions of contaminated blood, and shared needles and other equipment for substance use.
  • Immigrants entering Canada are not required to be tested for any kind of hepatitis. People are routinely tested for syphilis, HIV and tuberculosis but not for Hepatitis A, B or C.
  • Hepatitis C often causes no symptoms. Most people with hepatitis C do not experience any symptoms. They may not find out they are sick until they have liver damage or even liver cancer.
  • Immigrants face barriers to healthcare and testing. New immigrants wait for three months in Ontario for their Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). Immigrants in Canada access the healthcare system less and often face cultural and linguistic barriers to services and information.
  • Health is often hard to prioritize for people new to Canada. Many things can take priority over health while building a new life. Stress can affect a person’s substance use, diet and overall health. It can take years to find a family doctor and many people access healthcare only in an emergency.

Getting tested and diagnosed early can lead to better health and peace of mind.