July 28 is World Hepatitis Day, focusing on the worldwide increase of this serious liver disease. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, Hepatitis C diagnoses in our state have doubled since 2000.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation, sometimes leading to serious liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death. The Hepatitis C virus spreads through contaminated blood, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Hepatitis C is usually curable with oral medications taken every day for two to six months. However, about half of people with Hepatitis C don’t know they’re infected, mainly because they have no symptoms, which can take decades to appear.
Two groups in Iowa are most likely to be infected: baby boomers born between 1945 and 1964 and persons under age 40 who have used injection drugs.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a one-time screening blood test for everyone at increased risk of the infection. This includes baby boomers who ever in their life injected drugs or received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992.
This screening can be done in your regular clinic. See the Hepatitis C fact sheet for baby boomers at the CDC website. For additional free and confidential information, contact the Dallas County Health Department at 515-993-3750.
Ann Cochran is the health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Public Health Department.