Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C – am I at risk and how do I know if I should be tested?

Most people who have Hepatitis C don’t even know they have it. Hepatitis C can damage the liver and lead to liver failure and liver cancer. The good news is, in 90 percent of cases, it is treatable and curable within a few months with some of the new antiviral medications.

One in 30 baby boomers has Hepatitis C and most are asymptomatic and unaware. It is estimated that 3.2 million Americans have Chronic Hepatitis C. Many people were infected in the 1970s and 1980s when Hepatitis C rates were at their highest. Perhaps this is because the blood supply was not screened then. Some contribution to the increase could also be attributed to the increasing popularity of tattooing and piercing. In addition to being transmitted through blood products, Hepatitis C is also transmitted sexually.

Who should be tested? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested. If you fall into this age category, ask your doctor to add this test to your next blood work order. If you’ve had sex with more than 10 people in your lifetime, you should be tested. If you’ve ever shared a needle for drugs, snorted drugs, or shared drug paraphernalia, get tested. If you received a transfusion, blood products, or had a transplant before 1992, you should be tested. Finally, if you are HIV positive, received tattoos or body piercings with unsterilized instruments or reused dyes, ever had an accidental needle stick (most common in health care workers), are a Vietnam veteran, or are on long term kidney dialysis, get tested.