We know one of the best ways to stay healthy is to get the recommended health screenings and catch health conditions early before they’re serious. Amelia Salmanson, from the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, is here to talk about the health screening everyone should get at least once.
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Your liver function can be affected when it’s inflamed or damaged. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can all cause hepatitis. However, hepatitis is often caused by a virus. Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are liver infections caused by different viruses and are the most common types of hepatitis we see in the U.S. All 3 infections can cause similar symptoms, but are spread in different ways and can affect the liver differently.
Should everyone get screened for hepatitis?
Hepatitis is rare— but everyone 18 and older should get tested for hepatitis C at least once. Early screening and diagnosis for hepatitis C can prevent liver cancer. Hepatitis C is spread when someone comes into contact with blood from an infected person. The most common way it’s spread is by sharing drug-injection equipment. However, it can also be transmitted at birth, during sex, from unregulated tattooing, or if you share personal items with someone who is infected (like razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes, etc.).
People with hepatitis C often don’t look or feel sick until the virus has been chronic for many years and is causing adverse effects to the liver and body. Hepatitis C can range from a mild illness that lasts a few months to a serious, long-term illness. Hepatitis C is often described as “acute,” which means a new infection, or “chronic,” which means a long-term infection.
Is there treatment or a vaccine for hepatitis C?
We have vaccines for 2 strains of hepatitis, hepatitis A and hepatitis B. However, there isn’t a vaccine for hepatitis C—but there is treatment. Hepatitis C treatment cures over 90% of people with few side effects and is recommended for anyone 3 years or older who tests positive for hepatitis C. Treatment involves 8–12 weeks of oral therapy (pills).
Treatment for hepatitis C is important. Chronic or long-term hepatitis C can be a serious disease and can cause long-term health problems, including: liver damage, liver failure, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death. It’s the most common reason for liver transplants in the U.S. There were 15,713 deaths related to the hepatitis C virus reported to CDC in 2018, but this is believed to be an underestimate.
Staying up-to-date on your recommended health screenings and vaccinations is one of the easiest ways to stay healthy. Find more information about hepatitis C visit CDC’s Hepatitis C. Talk to a doctor or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about hepatitis C.
You can find information about which health screenings are recommended at each age at https://dhhs.utah.gov/up2date/.
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