If you’ve been diagnosed with Hepatitis C, you’re not alone. In the United States, as many as 3-5 million people have hepatitis C. the good news is that recent scientific advances have made treatments for Hepatitis C shorter (as little as 8 weeks) and more effective (over 95% cure rates), with very few side effects. While Hepatitis C is a serious disease, which can cause liver scarring over time, it can be cured. There has never been a better time to get your Hepatitis C treated and cured!
Hepatitis C is a virus that attacks the liver. Left untreated, it can result in long-term, progressive liver disease. Hepatitis C can eventually prevent the liver from functioning properly. Because HCV typically causes few symptoms, many people don’t even know they’re infected. Because HCV is a silent disease, often people have few or no symptoms for years, although the virus continues to gradually impact the liver. By the time symptoms do occur, liver disease is often advanced. Do not wait for symptoms to appear before being screened and treated!
HOW DO PEOPLE GET HCV?
Hepatitis C is a communicable, blood-borne disease. That means you can get it if blood from an infected person enters your body. A vaccination has not yet been developed to prevent HCV infection.
You’re at risk for HCV if you:
Have ever injected drugs and shared needles with anyone
Are a health care worker and have been injured by needlestick
Received any tattoos or body piercings with non-sterile instruments
Had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
Received a blood-clotting product made before 1987
Have been on kidney dialysis for a long time
Have had sex with a person infected with hepatitis c
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all baby boomers – everyone born between 1945 and 1965 – should get screened at least once for hepatitis C. American adults born between these years have the highest rates of infection. About 75% of people in the United States who have HCV were born between 1945-1965. That means that Baby Boomers are 5 times more likely to have HCV.
If you were born between 1965-1945, or have other risk factors, talk to your doctor about getting screened. Screening involves a simple blood test, or even a finger stick in some cases.
Don’t be afraid of treatment! Although early HCV treatments were often not effective and caused unpleasant side effects, in the past 5 years, new medications have been developed which are highly effective and also well-tolerated with very few side effects.