Hepatitis C is a virus infecting the liver. It may cause serious liver damage or even death.
How do you get it? It is spread by exposure to hepatitis C (HCV) infected blood or body fluids. High-risk patients are those who
- received blood products with clotting factors before 1987 or
- received a blood transfusion or
- organ transplant before July 1992 or
- those with a history IV drug use or
- have HIV or
- have been on kidney dialysis for several years or
- babies with HCV positive mothers or
- public safety workers who have been stuck with a needle or other sharp objects contaminated with blood or fluid.
How many people have it? An estimated 3 million American adults are infected. Most of them do not know it. It is suspected that 3% of baby boomers have HCV.
Why get tested? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended last year that all baby boomers (those born between 1945 and 1965) be screened for HCV. There is treatment which helps to clear the virus from the body in the hopes of preventing progression of cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease or liver cancer.
The CDC Director Thomas Frieden has said “the take-home message …is that you may not remember everything that happened in the ’60s and ’70s, but your liver does.”
How do you get screened? A simple blood test. Ask your doctor.