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Hepatitis Testing Day

heptest (2013_04_29 16_06_46 UTC)Today is national Hepatitis Testing Day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hepatitis C testing for people who:

  • Were born from 1945 through 1965
  • Received donated blood or organs before 1992
  • Have ever injected drugs, even if it was just once many years ago
  • Have certain medical conditions, such as chronic liver disease and HIV or AIDS, or other risk factors

The CDC estimates that 2.7 million people in the U.S. are chronically infected with hepatitis C. The sheer numbers of hepatitis C-infected people is not our biggest problem; as many as three out of four people with hepatitis C do not know they have it. In short, the majority of those with hepatitis C don’t know they harbor a potentially deadly virus; a virus that claims more lives annually in the U.S. than HIV does.

No diagnosis means patients aren’t aware that they risk infecting others. It may mean decreased quality of life. No diagnosis means no treatment. Diagnosis leads to choice, and choice leads to health. For instance, in the CDC’s efforts to gather better data, they learned that the majority of those who are hepatitis C antibody-positive admit to drinking an average of more than two drinks daily.

Baby Boomers, those born in the years 1945–1965 account for approximately three fourths of all hepatitis C infections in the United States. One in 30 Baby Boomers are infected.  Although Baby Boomers comprise nearly ¼ of the population, they suffer nearly ¾ of the deaths from hepatitis C. If we do not intervene, by 2020 there will be one million cases of cirrhosis just from hepatitis C. This problem adds a huge burden to our healthcare dollars, which in the U.S. means an enormous Medicare bill.

You can make a difference—encourage those who were born between 1945-1965 to be tested for hepatitis C. Ask them to encourage others. If someone says, “Why should I be tested?  I don’t have any risk factors,” tell them, “It’s not how you lived—it is when you lived. Besides, aren’t you worth a $20 to $25 test, especially if insurance pays for it, which it usually does?” That is a cheap price to pay for peace of mind.

 

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