Hoosiers are invited to learn about the silent epidemic that affects over 4 million Americans--viral hepatitis. According to the Indiana State Department of Health, iIn 2011 alone, more than 6-thousand cases of viral hepatitis were reported in Indiana, including the most common types, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Knowledge of the disease and its risks are essential to improve screening and testing which can reduce illness and death from hepatitis. State health officials are encouraging Hoosiers to take action to increase viral hepatitis awareness and take the initiative to get tested.
“Hepatitis can be a serious illness leading to liver disease and liver cancer,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccination and testing.”
Hepatitis A is spread through ingestion of fecal matter (stool) of an infected individual. Hepatitis B and C are spread through contact with infected blood. Hepatitis B is also commonly spread from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth. Common modes of transmission for both diseases include intravenous drug use and sharing of contaminated needles, including those used for tattoos and body piercing, and other injection drug equipment. Although there is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C, there are vaccines for both hepatitis A and B.
Symptoms of hepatitis A, B and C include nausea, anorexia, fever, malaise, abdominal pain, jaundice and dark urine. However, it may also show no symptoms or very mild symptoms that can be mistaken for another illness. Up to 75 percent of people infected with hepatitis C do not know they have it. Laboratory testing is the only way to know for certain if someone has viral hepatitis and what kind.
State health officials recommend a one-time hepatitis blood test for hepatitis C for everyone between the ages of 49 and 69 years of age. This one test can help protect the health of Americans from liver disease and potentially save thousands of lives.
For more information, visit the Viral Hepatitis Prevention page on the Indiana State Department of Health’s website at http://www.in.gov/isdh/25797.htm. For important health and safety information, or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/isdh1.
(Image: http://www.cdcnpin.org/HTD/HTD.aspx )