The National Medical Association reports Hepatitis C now results in more deaths in the United States than HIV-related illnesses. In fact, liver disease, liver cancer and deaths caused by Hepatitis C are increasing each year. The longer people live with hepatitis C, the higher the risk of developing life threatening liver disease.
Hepatitis C is a viral disease that leads to inflammation of the liver. The disease is contracted when an infected person’s blood enters the body of an uninfected person. The most common way a person becomes infected is via a needle stick, be it intentional like from a tattoo, blood transfusion, drug use, or accidental.
Most people with Acute Hepatitis C don’t show signs of the disease. However, if symptoms do appear, it may be within two weeks to six months after contracting the virus. Those with Chronic Hepatitis C can show no symptoms or signs of the disease. Chronic Hepatitis C can be in the body for several decades before being discovered. Symptoms that may occur include abdominal swelling, dark urine, fever, itching, clay-colored or pale stools, nausea and loss of appetite.
To help fight Hepatitis C, the Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center, part of KentuckyOne Health, has opened a dedicated Hepatitis C clinic.
More than 75 percent of adults infected with Hepatitis C are baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965. Those born in the baby boomer era are five times more likely to carry the Hepatitis C virus than the rest of the population. Oftentimes, those infected are unaware that they have the virus.
“The clinic was created to help combat the Hepatitis C epidemic,” says Barbra Cave, APRN. “Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center has a caring and knowledgeable team in place to help patients every step of the way, from diagnosis to treatment.”
One-time screenings for Hepatitis C are recommended for those born between the years 1945 and 1965. The Hepatitis C clinic will also test to identify and oversee liver damage such as cirrhosis caused from the disease. Blood tests usually include measuring the viral load and genotype (specific strain) of the Hepatitis C virus. These tests are used to determine which curative treatment may be used.
There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. If symptoms of Hepatitis C develop, or if exposure to the virus is suspected, a health care provider should be contacted immediately.