Public health nurse Leah Walker

Council takes the hepatitis challenge

The hepatitis C challenge was a close battle of wits, friendly competition and some nerves

The hepatitis C challenge was a close battle of wits, friendly competition and some nerves.

City councillors for the City of Campbell River and the City of Courtenay went head-to-head to see who could recruit the most members to roll up their sleeves and get their blood tested for hepatitis C.

Testing took place Tuesday to coincide with World Hepatitis Day which aims to boost awareness of the disease and erase the stigma associated with it.

For Campbell River, three members of council turned out – Mayor Andy Adams and councillors Ron Kerr and Colleen Evans, who was a trouper and took part despite an uneasiness with needles.

They were up against Courtenay who had councillors Erik Eriksson, Doug Hillian, and Rebecca Lennox getting poked.

Campbell River councillors Michele Babchuk and Charlie Cornfield told Leanne Wingert of AIDS Vancouver Island, who issued the challenge at the July 20 council meeting, that they would schedule appointments at a later date.

As they have yet to make it in for the test, the challenge appears to have ended in a deadlock unless the competition is expanded to include Cumberland Coun. Jessie Ketler who also took part.

On top of the elected officials, Jeanette Reinhardt, health promotion educator with AIDS Vancouver Island, said seven members of the public stopped by the Campbell River AIDS Vancouver Island office for free testing while three dropped by in the Comox Valley.

The tests were to help detect for the presence of hepatitis C, the most harmful strain of the disease which attacks the liver and can be caused by illness, alcohol abuse or other medical conditions.

Hepatitis C can be particularly dangerous because people often don’t know they have it. At least 44 per cent of Canadians with the disease aren’t aware they have it because symptoms don’t typically appear until their liver is already damaged, which can take 20 years or more.

Hepatitis C testing is available at the public health office in the back of Tyee Plaza and anyone who donates blood is screened for the disease.