4 things you need to know about Hepatitis C


(BPT) - Here’s something to be aware of, especially during October, which is Liver Awareness Month: your Hepatitis C (hep C) status. In the United States, there are many people who have hep C and don’t know it. In an update to their guidelines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommend that everyone 18 years of age and older get screened for hep C. So, what do you need to know about hep C?

1. Chronic Hep C can cause serious damage to the liver

Hep C is a viral infection that can cause chronic inflammation and scarring in the liver, leading to long-term health problems like cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. Chronic hep C is also the most common reason for liver transplants in the United States. But that’s not the only reason the virus is considered a major public health problem.

2. Hep C can hide in plain sight

About 2.3 million adults in the United States are infected with hep C, but up to 4 in 10 people with the virus don’t know they have it. Many people who are infected with chronic hep C don’t experience symptoms or have non-specific symptoms, such as depression or chronic fatigue. They can be asymptomatic for 20-30 years. And someone infected with the virus can spread it whether they have symptoms or not.

3. You don’t need to be high-risk to get tested

Hep C is a bloodborne disease, which means the virus is spread when blood from a person infected with the hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. The CDC recommends that all adults over the age of 18 and all pregnant women during each pregnancy get tested for hepatitis C. There are certain patients that should get tested regardless of age and other patients that should be tested regularly. Your doctor can tell you if you need regular testing.

“In the past, physicians have mostly focused their hep C testing in high-risk groups and older, baby boomer patients. But we’ve also seen an increase of infections in people under the age of 40,” said Dr. Julio Gutierrez, Transplant Hepatologist at Scripps Center for Organ and Cell Transplantation. “With the new CDC guidelines to screen all adults, there will be more testing and treating. That’s the first step to solving this public health crisis.”

4. We can eliminate hep C — with your help

No hep C by 2030 — that’s the future the World Health Organization (WHO) imagines. They’ve set a goal to eliminate hep C as a public health threat in the next decade. Today’s treatments are all oral and can be completed in as few as 8–24 weeks. Additionally, many of today's treatments have high cure rates of 95% or higher. A patient is considered cured if the hepatitis C virus is not detectable in their blood months after treatment has ended. So, this Liver Awareness Month, talk to your doctor about getting screened for hep C.

To get more information about hep C, visit HepC.com or call 844-HEPCINFO (1-844-437-2463).

This article was sponsored by AbbVie.

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