The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is leading a national education campaign initiative called Know More Hepatitis. The campaign aims to decrease the burden of chronic viral hepatitis by increasing awareness about this hidden epidemic and encouraging baby boomers (people born 1945-1965) to get tested.
Know More Hepatitis is being featured in May as part of Hepatitis Awareness Month. This year, May 19th will serve as the second Hepatitis Testing Day. Since chronic hepatitis often does not cause any symptoms until serious liver damage has been done, testing for hepatitis is crucial. Find out if you are at risk by taking a 5 minute online Hepatitis Risk Assessment. For local hospitals and clinics near you offering hepatitis testing, please go to http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis
This online assessment is designed to determine an individual’s risk for viral hepatitis by asking questions based on the CDC’s guidelines for testing and vaccination. The Assessment allows individuals to answer questions privately and print their recommendations to discuss with their doctor.
The word “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most often caused by one of several viruses, which is why it is often called viral hepatitis. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
Unlike Hepatitis A, which does not cause a long-term infection, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can become chronic, life-long infections. Chronic viral hepatitis can lead to serious liver problems including liver cancer. More than 1 million Americans are living with chronic Hepatitis B and 3 million with chronic Hepatitis C in the United States but most do not know they are infected. The vast majority of those infected with hepatitis C are baby boomers, or those born from 1945 through 1965. CDC recommends that everyone born during these years be tested for Hepatitis C.
Both Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can cause liver cancer and have contributed to the increase in rates of liver cancer in recent decades. Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer, which is the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., as well as the most common indication for liver transplants. Hepatitis C is also responsible for more than 15,000 deaths each year (a number that has nearly doubled over the past decade).
With early detection, many people can get lifesaving care and treatment that can limit disease progression, and prevent cancer deaths. To find out if you should be tested take the Hepatitis Risk Assessment.
In addition, this month’s issue of Vital Signs focuses on Hepatitis C testing, and suggests that only half of those with hepatitis C receive complete testing for the virus.