By Edie Jeffers
TACOMA – May is Hepatitis C Awareness Month, and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Departments encourages you to check your risk factors for this disease.
Those risk factors now include simply being a baby boomer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if you were born between 1945 and 1965, you are five times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C, the highest rate of hepatitis C, according to recent studies.
“The CDC believes baby boomers with Hepatitis C became infected with the disease in the 1970s and 1980s when the rates of new infection were the highest,” said Karen Enstrom, community health nurse with the Communicable Disease Control Division of Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “Since chronic hepatitis C can go unnoticed for up to several decades, people with hepatitis C often have no symptoms and can live with the infection for decades without feeling sick,” she said.
As baby boomers age, a greater chance exists that they will develop serious, life threatening complications. The health department passes on the CDC’s recommendation that people in this generation get tested to determine if they are infected, and if necessary, pursue treatment. Testing can lead to treatment that can help prevent liver damage, cirrhosis and even liver cancer. Hepatitis C can be successfully treated with medications.
Hepatitis C is spread when blood from a person infected with hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. So other risk factors for the disease include injection drug use, blood transfusion, organ transplant, hemodialysis, and outbreaks of the disease in outpatient healthcare and residential care facilities.
Though rare, hepatitis C may spread by having a sexually transmitted disease, sex with many partners, getting a tattoo or body piercing, and children born to mothers with hepatitis C.
Call your doctor today to arrange for a hepatitis C test. To learn more about hepatitis C, go to www.tpchd.org/HepC or www.cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis. Take an assessment of your risk factors for Hepatitis C at www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/