Modified: May 17, 2016 3:28pm
From the Office of the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale R. Burstein
Date May 13, 2016
CONTACT: Mary C. St. Mary/Mary.StMary@Erie.Gov
Phone: 716.858.4941/ Mobile: 716.253.3925
Hepatitis—Have You Been Tested?
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month
ERIE COUNTY, NY— Millions in the US have hepatitis and thousands more are infected each year. Chronic hepatitis B and C can cause liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death. Baby boomers (i.e. those born from 1945-1965) account for the majority of those living with chronic hepatitis C (“HCV”) in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recommend that all baby boomers should be tested for HCV at least once.
Hepatitis is a blood-borne pathogen that affects the liver. The National Cancer Institute’s Annual Report recently highlighted that liver cancer incidence and mortality are growing faster than any other common cancer. A major driver of this trend is HCV, which is implicated in 50 percent of all liver cancers. In fact, a CDC study recently found that HCV-related mortality outpaces the mortality of all other nationally notifiable diseases combined, including HIV and tuberculosis.
More than four million Americans are infected with HCV and over 50 percent of them do not know it, which is one of the reasons why the Erie County Department of Health is joining CDC to recognize May as Hepatitis Awareness Month. Knowing you have Hepatitis C can help you make important decisions about your health. Successful treatments can eliminate the virus from the body and prevent liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.
“While the majority of new hepatitis cases are Baby-Boomers born between 1945 and 1965, there are a growing number of cases diagnosed in young adults,” stated Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health. “This rise in hepatitis coincides with increases in opioid and heroin overdose deaths, due to sharing of needles and other injection drug use equipment which are common modes of transmission of blood-borne viruses like hepatitis.”
There is no vaccine for HCV, but there are treatments that can cure HCV infection. However, because persons with HCV are often asymptomatic for many years, most people have never been tested or diagnosed. The only way to know you are infected is with a blood test. CDC and ECDOH are encouraging residents to talk to their healthcare provider about testing and treatment for HCV, especially those born between 1945 and 1965 or those who have ever injected drugs.
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