Iredell News

Section: Iredell News

06/08/2017

Iredell Health System Urges Hepatitis Screening

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 needed.”

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.

Categories: General News