Before you click away, consider this: according to Cathy Canning, Community Outreach Volunteer with the Frederick County Hepatitis Clinic,
more than 3 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C — and most of them have no idea they have it because they don’t look or feel sick.
Cathy contends we’re heading for a health crisis in the coming years “from a disease that can lie dormant in victims for up to 20 years, passing from generation to generation. Often adults who have long since ‘cleaned up their act,’ or who received hepatitis C through a blood transfusion are shocked to discover they have the disease and now face a failing liver or death.”
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use and bacterial and viral infections. It’s also the name of a family of viral infections that affect the liver. Among those is the often-symptomless hepatitis C.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for every 100 people who are infected with hepatitis C:
- 75-85 people will develop chronic hepatitis C virus infection; of those,
- 60-70 people will go on to develop chronic liver disease
- 5-20 people will go on to develop cirrhosis over a period of 20-30 years
- 1-5 people will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer
Without reliable symptoms to check, the CDC indicates the following groups are at an increased risk for hepatitis C:
- Current injection drug users (this is the most common way hepatitis C is spread in the U.S.)
- Past injection users (even if it was only once or many years ago)
- Blood or organ donation recipients who received blood or organs before 1992
- People who received a blood product for clotting problems before 1987
- Hemodialysis patients or persons who spent many years on dialysis for kidney failure
- People who received body piercing or tattoos with non-sterile instruments
- People with known exposures to the virus (such as healthcare workers injured by needlesticks)
- HIV-infected persons
- Children born to mothers infected with hepatitis C
Less common methods of transmission include sexual contact or sharing personal items like razors or toothbrushes that came in contact with the blood of an infected individual.
If you’re concerned you may have been exposed to hepatitis C — or its more treatable cousin, hepatitis B — the Frederick County Hepatitis Clinic is offering free, walk-in screenings every Tuesday throughout the month of May 2011 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon.
The clinic is located inside the Frederick County Health Department at 350 Montevue Lane in Frederick. Please use Entrance B.
For more information, please contact the clinic at 301-600-3343 or visit www.frederickcountyhepatitisclinic.org.