A new health care consultation program is helping isolated doctors treat aboriginal people in northern communities who have hepatitis.

The Canada-wide program, now reaching its first birthday, links health care workers in northern communities with a specialist at the University of Alberta Department of Medicine. The program allows the university specialist to recommend treatment without the patient having to travel huge distances.

Up to 30 per cent of the Inuit and Dene populations in Canada have been exposed to hepatitis B—a rate that’s 10 times the Canadian average, according to the University of Alberta.

Hepatitis affects the liver and can be deadly in rare cases. Each type of hepatitis has its own form of transmission—from contaminated water to sexual contact or blood transfusion.