Viral hepatitis is a silent epidemic in the United States with more than 4 million Americans living with chronic hepatitis, and many not knowing it. In observation of May being Hepatitis Awareness Month, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are encouraging families to protect themselves from hepatitis disease.
Every year, approximately 15,000 Americans die from liver cancer or chronic liver disease associated with viral hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is caused by a virus that infects the liver. Hepatitis A, B and C are the most common and there is a vaccine to protect against Hepatitis A and B. Early detection and treatment can help reduce disease progression. Hepatitis is not something people should take lightly, and if anyone feels they are at risk, MDCH strongly encourages them to visit their doctor.
The CDC’s online Hepatitis Risk Assessment tool can help determine if hepatitis testing and vaccination is recommended. This tool allows you to privately enter information and receive recommendations based on CDC’s guidelines. Talk to your doctor about ways to protect your family from hepatitis and people with hepatitis should talk to their doctor about treatment options.
Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is spread by eating food or drinking water with HAV in it or from close contact with a person who has the virus. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is spread through contact with blood or body fluids of an HBV infected person, unprotected sex, or from infected mothers to their infants at birth. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread through contact with the blood of an HCV infected person or by sharing syringes or drug equipment with someone who has HCV.
In 2012, CDC released new guidelines recommending that people born between 1945-1965 get a one-time blood test for HCV. Rates of HCV in this age group are 5 times higher than other adults as the risk of HCV infection was greater in the 1970s and 1980s.
CDC’s Know More Hepatitis initiative aims to decrease the burden of chronic Hepatitis C by increasing awareness and encouraging people to get tested. Some people with hepatitis may never show any symptoms of having the disease. Without a blood test to confirm they are infected, they could spread the disease unknowingly to others.
To access the Hepatitis Risk Assessment tool, visit www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/riskassessment. For more information about the CDC Know More Hepatitis initiative, visit www.cdc.gov/KnowMoreHepatitis.