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3 in 4 Don’t Know

By on March 22, 2014
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Naomi Judd, Natalie Cole, and about three million other brave Americans are part of a dubious club. They are living with hepatitis C. In fact, you should be as concern over getting Hep C as you are with HIV. Seriously.

Hepatitis C is a serious virus infection that can cause liver damage and or even liver cancer. Compounding this health problem is that 3 in 4 people who are infected don’t know they are infected, so they don’t get the medical care they need. Hepatitis can be preventable by using a latex condom during sexual contact, avoid contact with infected blood, and not sharing needles or syringes  for any reason.

A person becomes infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles, syringes, etc., needlestick injuries, and being born to a mother who has Hepatitis C. It’s also possible, but not common for transmission to occur through blood and by sexual contact with an infected person. Basically, hepatitis and HIV are transmitted the same way. Hepatitis C related chronic liver disease among African American baby-boomers (45-64 years) is a leading cause of death. There is no vaccine or cure.

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver. Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people in the following categories should be tested for hepatitis C:

  • Born from 1945 through 1965
  • Have received blood products with clotting factor before 1987
  • Have received blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
  • Have ever injected drugs, even if only one time
  • Have HIV
  • Have been on kidney dialysis for several years
  • Are health or public safety workers who have been stuck with a needle or other sharp object with blood from a person with hepatitis C or unknown hepatitis C status
  • Born to mother with hepatitis C

If you are not sure of your risk for hepatitis, you can take this short CDC assessment, here.

And finally, if you are fortunate to know you are infected, be kind to yourself. Eat healthy, stay physically active, and consult with a doctor regularly. Also it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking over the counter medicines and avoid alcohol because they can cause liver damage. Protecting the liver functioning is critical for people with hepatitis.

Content for this article provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Healthy Black Men, and Project Brotherhood. Additional resources available here.

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