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Hepatitis: Get Tested!

CDC recommends anyone born from 1945-1965 get tested for Hepatitis. Up to 75% of people living with Hepatitis C do not know they are infected. Many people can live with Hepatitis C for decades with no symptoms.

Viral hepatitis-B and hepatitis-C are preventable and treatable diseases. But the CDC estimates that about half of the 3-5 million affected Americans are unaware they are infected – which has allowed hepatitis to wreak harm that could have been arrested.

“What that can do is lead to end-stage liver disease,” says Dr. Rupali Doshi of HRSA’s HIV/AIDS Bureau. “It can lead to cirrhosis. And it can even cause liver cancer.

“When we talk about these two infections, we’re talking about a population in the United States that has chronically -- for many, many years -- been living with one or both of these infections potentially … for safety net providers, we’re seeing populations that might have higher rates.”

In addition to sharing needles, various strains of hepatitis can be transmitted by sexual contact, infected blood products or in vitro from mother to child. Even in minute amounts, Hepatitis B can spread by sharing personal items such as toothbrushes or razors.

Dr. Rupali Doshi of HRSA’s HIV/AIDS Bureau speaking at a recent webcast.

Rural In-roads: In a recent webcast, Doshi said outbreaks have begun to occur
in suburban and rural areas, “which is a new thing. We believe that this has been fueled by
increases in injection drug use, which has been fueled by the prescription opioid epidemic.”

People born from 1945 through 1965 are five times more likely to be infected with Hepatitis C. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended that all individuals born during those years be tested.

“If you are a Baby Boomer, or you know a Baby Boomer,” Doshi said, “please get screened for Hepatitis C.  It’s something you can ask your primary care provider for. And also strongly consider sharing information that’s been updated about viral hepatitis … with your grantee community.”

The majority of HRSA’s programs serve people who may be affected by viral hepatitis  she noted, making HRSA an ideal clearinghouse for screening and treatment information. HRSA's HIV/AIDS Bureau, Bureau of Primary Health Care, Maternal & Child Health Bureau, and Healthcare Systems Bureau have developed innovative projects that address hepatitis C prevention, care, treatment and/or education.  

Acting Administrator Jim Macrae added that while a new generation of hepatitis drugs is still expensive, “just the fact that these drugs are available, you can now actually have a huge impact fairly quickly” in extending lives that until now might have been lost to liver cancer.

The drugs can work in as little as 8-12 weeks.

Learn about hepatitis types and indications (PDF - 592K).

 

 

 

Date Last Reviewed:  April 2017