Residents urged to get screened, and treated.
Baltimore, Md (KM). The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is getting word out about hepatitis. May is Hepatitis Awareness Month across the country, and it’s important that patients get tested, and treated, if they have the disease.
Onyeka Anaedozie, Deputy Director of the Infectious Disease Prevention and Health Services Bureau of DHMH, says the most common forms of the virus in Maryland are Hepatitis-B and Hepatitis-C. There is a vaccination for Hepatitis-B, but not for Hepatitis-C. “There are treatments available that have shown to be effective in curing people of Hepatitis-C if they’re shown to be infected,” she says.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, and it can become chronic, leading to cirrhosis or liver failure. Anaedozie says hepatitis is often called the “silent epidemic.” “The scary thing about Hepatitis-B and C is that a lot of people are asymptomatic so they don’t know they have it for a while unless they go get tested. It takes a long time for the symptoms to manifest themselves,” she says.
DHMH says it’s projected that between 73,000 and 106,000 Marylanders will become infected with Hepatitis-C in their lives. The agency says between 15% and 25% who become infected will get over it without medication. But 75% to 85% of patients who are infected could end up with chronic Hepatitis-C if they don’t get treatment.
Anaedozie says this problem is further exacerbated by the growing opioid epidemic. “We’re seeing rises in opioid use and abuse. And that when people are ingesting drugs and not using clean, sterile equipment, the likelihood of transmitting infections from one person to another is very high,:” she says.
The populations most susceptible for contracting Hepatitis-C, according to DHMH, are “baby boomers” (those born between 1945 and 1965); anyone whose mother was infected by the Hepatitis-C virus; anyone who received blood products with clotting factor before 1987; anyone who has had an organ transplant or blood transfusion before July, 1992; anyone who has been on kidney dialysis for several years; anyone with the HIV virus, which causes AIDS; any health or safety workers who were struck with a needle or other sharp objects with blood from a person with Hepatitis-C; anyone who has injected drugs, even once, during their lifetime.
“At a time, we were screening the blood supply for Hepatitis-C. That’s why ‘baby boomers’ and people who have had organ transplants and blood transfusions in a a certain time period are susceptible,” says .Anaedozie.
DHMH says one way to find out if you have Hepatitis-C is to ask your doctor to arrange a screening, and get on treatments, if you test positive. “We have treatments right now that have shown to be able to cure Hepatitis-C,” she said. “The popular treatment is to using a pill a day. You can clear the virus in as little as 12-weeks.”
By Kevin McManus