Children and Hepatitis C

Posted 10 December, 2019
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Recently children and hepatitis C is something that is coming up here at Hepatitis Queensland when we have been talking with community members and service providers supporting those affected by hepatitis.

The area of children and hepatitis C is one that often has more questions than answers. As it currently stands, adults over the age of 18 years, living in Australia can access treatment under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) but unfortunately on the most part babies, children and adolescents fall outside of this.

We have updated our suite of factsheets to reflect this and wanted to highlight a couple of changes.

This isn’t a new change – but all mums who are engaged in antenatal care will be tested for hepatitis C, as well as hepatitis B, HIV and syphilis. This means that women who don’t know their status are getting diagnosed early in their pregnancy and can be referred into specialist care, for their wellbeing as well as their baby.

Unfortunately there aren’t any interventions that can change the chances of the baby getting hepatitis C from mum. There is no greater risk for a vaginal birth compared to a caesarean section. Breastfeeding is encouraged to support the healthy development of the baby’s immune system – mums need to be aware of cracked and bleeding nipples as this can be enough for a transmission to occur if the baby has open cuts of sores in their mouth. There is some great breastfeeding tips for mums in the Hep C, My Baby and Me factsheet.

The testing and diagnosis of any baby is a confronting topic. The guidelines around testing babies has changed in recent years. There is great detailed information in the Hep C, My Baby and Me factsheet about when to test babies born to mums who are hepatitis C positive. We have also included some things to consider before testing and tips for handling a diagnosis.

There is work being done in the space of treatment for children and babies, but is still a few years away. If you are caring for a child who is hepatitis C positive it is really important they are receiving regular check-ups with a liver specialist. The specialists will be able to monitor their overall liver health as well as the virus in their body. Being in specialist care will also mean you will receive information about advancements in treatment as they are happening.

Further reading:

If you have any questions, please give Hepatitis Queensland a call on the InfoLine 1800 437 222 or email info@hepqld.asn.au

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