North Carolina health officials are expressing their concern over a recent
increase in cases of Hepatitis B and C in the state. Hepatitis is a liver
infection and types B and C are the most common, infecting tens of thousands
of people in the United States each year. Both infections have the potential
to cause chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported that
new cases of Hepatitis
B increased by 56 percent between 2014 and 2016, according to preliminary
data. New cases of Hepatitis C increased by 69 percent.
Screening Recommended for Baby Boomers
“Anyone born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested for Hepatitis
C,” said Pam Gill, Director of Infection Prevention for Iredell
Health System. “This virus can do serious damage to your liver.
That’s why it is so important to be tested and seek treatment if
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Baby
Boomers are five times more likely to be infected with Hepatitis C than
other adults. That could be because screening for Hepatitis C was insufficient
during blood and organ donations until 1992. Hepatitis C is primarily
spread through contact with the blood of an infected person.
Other Risk Factors
The opioid drug crisis could also be driving the rise of Hepatitis in North
Carolina. The use of injection drugs and the sharing of contaminated needles
are major risk factors for Hepatitis B and C. Hepatitis B can be spread
through contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person.
Hepatitis B is more likely to be shared through sexual contact than Hepatitis C.
What You Should Do
Screening for Hepatitis includes a blood test. According to the CDC, most
people with Hepatitis C do not know they are infected.
“Don’t put off screening if you think you may be at risk of
Hepatitis,” said Gill. “It’s possible for you to have
a Hepatitis infection and not show obvious symptoms.”
The NC Department of Health and Human Services also recommends vaccination
for Hepatitis A and B. There currently is no vaccination for Hepatitis C.
You can visit CDC.gov/hepatitis for more information or call Iredell Health
System to find a healthcare provider near you at 704-873-5661.