Most people have heard of hepatitis C , which most typically results from shared needles in intravenous drug use. The number cases has tripled over five years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year, with most of the increase among young adults. It increases patients’ risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer.
But in just the past year or so, hepatitis A also has caused increased concern among public health officials. According to the CDC, recent outbreaks of the disease have stricken California, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Utah and West Virginia. At least 20 homeless people died in the outbreak in San Diego.
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but vaccines for hepatitis A and B are available, and are included in the schedule of recommended vaccines for children. For all three diseases, it’s important for people to determine their level of risk and seek out testing if there is reason for concern.
May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month, with May 19 designated as Hepatitis Testing Day. Right now is the time to learn more about these diseases affecting the liver, figure out whether you are at risk, and get tested if you are. The CDC wants people to know these four key facts about these dangerous diseases:
- Hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are all different diseases.
Each type of hepatitis is caused by a different virus and spread in different ways. Hepatitis A does not cause a long-term infection, although it can make people very sick. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C can become chronic, life-long infections and lead to serious health problems.
- Chronic hepatitis is a leading cause of liver cancer.
Chronic hepatitis B and C can cause serious damage to the liver, including liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer. In fact, more than 60 percent of liver cancer cases are related to hepatitis B or C.
- Most people with chronic hepatitis do not know they are infected.
More than 4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis in the United States, but most do not know they are infected. Many people live with chronic hepatitis for decades without symptoms or feeling sick.
- Getting tested could save your life.
Lifesaving treatments are available for chronic hepatitis B and new treatments are available that can cure hepatitis C. Still, getting tested is the only way to know if you are infected. Take CDC’s Hepatitis Risk Assessment to see if you should be tested for viral hepatitis.
It takes only five minutes to do the self-assessment, which can be found here.
Get tested if your assessment shows you should. And even if you are disease-free, check your vaccination record to see if you have been vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. Ask your doctor about these potentially life-saving vaccines.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:
The Ultimate Vaccine Quiz
Why Vaccine Beliefs Vary by Generation
Oropharyngeal Cancer is a Growing HPV Concern