(NC) Back-to-school season is an important time for people of all ages. Whether sending kids, grandkids or yourself back to the books, it’s also a great time to update your knowledge about health conditions that may be relevant to your life.

An important one you may not have considered is hepatitis. There are three common forms – A, B and C – that affect thousands of Canadians each year, resulting in short-term illnesses and life-threatening consequences. Here’s what you need to know:

  • A: Hepatitis A is spread through close contact with an infected person, or by consuming contaminated food or drinking water. This can occur if you have or will travel to regions where the condition is common, like the Caribbean and South America.
  • B: Hepatitis B is common worldwide. Some ways you can risk exposure include getting tattoos, piercings, pedicures, manicures or medical procedures with improperly sterilized equipment, sharing personal hygiene items or having unprotected sex with an infected person.
  • C: This liver disease is caused by a virus that attacks the liver without warning and puts individuals at risk of developing complications including cirrhosis, liver cancer and ultimately death from liver failure. The Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver recommends that Canadians get tested based on their age, not just risk factors. The hepatitis C antibody test is a simple blood test covered by all provincial healthcare plans.

Getting vaccinated for hepatitis A and B is a great way to prevent it, however there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. In order to determine if you might have hepatitis C, there is a simple blood test your doctor can recommend.

To find out your hepatitis risk, complete the Canadian Liver Foundation’s viral hepatitis questionnaire at liver.ca/hepatitisquestionnaire.