It is estimated that around 150 children are currently born in Australia each year infected with hepatitis C. Research about the effects of the virus on children is increasing but is still limited.
Testing of children is a very delicate issue for which parents may require a lot of support and information. Current recommendations are that :
- diagnostic testing should be delayed until children are 18 months old, due to the probability of false/incorrect results
- children who do test positive are referred to a specialist paediatric gastroenterologist for ongoing monitoring and management.
Although there are some exceptions, children generally have a mild experience of the disease which features occasional abdominal pains, lack of appetite, nausea and fatigue.
Chronic paediatric HCV infection may be associated with development of autoimmune diseases, such as auto-immune hepatitis and arthritis. There appears to be a moderate influence on the child’s capacity to do normal activities for their age, including school work and some physical activities.
At the present time it is not possible to predict in the early stages which children will develop serious liver disease. Available treatments for hepatitis C have been used on children although there are still unresolved questions on the long term effects of some of the drugs used in these treatments. Nevertheless, if a child is starting to develop early liver disease, treatment can be commenced as early as six years of age.
Effects on those close to the child / young person
Children with hepatitis C may have significantly poorer health, which has an influence on family activities. Parents worry about the future and the long-term prognosis of their child’s health. Not knowing is a source of ongoing stress for parents. Due to the highly stigmatized nature of how hepatitis C is currently represented in our community some parents also worry about their child being discriminated against in the school, in social situations and in future work and education opportunities. There is no legal requirement for parents to disclose their child’s hepatitis C status.
“In their shoes” – stories from children / young people with the condition
None currently available.
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