Hepatitis C: Are You at Risk?
David M. Fettig, MD, Birmingham Gastroenterology Associates
Hepatitis C is a virus that affects the liver. In fact, it is the most common blood-borne infection and affects about 3.5 million people in the U.S. It is commonly called a silent disease because most people do not have symptoms for years or even decades. Untreated Hepatitis C can cause liver damage and lead to liver cancer. Each year more Americans die from Hepatitis C than from HIV, but Hepatitis C can be cured!
The CDC recommends that all Baby Boomers (born 1945-1965) be screened for Hepatitis C. The screening is a simple blood test but is not included in routine blood work, so ask your healthcare provider to test you. Other risk factors for Hepatitis C are: blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992, tattoos or body piercings with unsterilized tools, injecting illegal drugs, accidental needle sticks, or being born to a mother with Hepatitis C.
If you are diagnosed with Hepatitis C, know that treatments have improved significantly. In the past, treatments could last as long as a year but now patients can be cured in as few as 12 weeks. If you find yourself at risk for Hepatitis C, talk to your healthcare provider and get screened today.