Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can cause harm or death of liver cells and is spread by fecal contamination, contaminated water and contact with infected blood or body fluids. There are many different kinds of hepatitis and some can be mild and can go unnoticed while others can be severe and life-threatening. Sometimes a person's immune system can eliminate some of the hepatitis viruses, and some can be controlled using medication.
A survey released by the AGA last year provides some alarming statistics concerning Hepatitis C and Baby Boomers. The survey showed that 74% of Boomers have either never been tested for Hep C or are unsure if they have ever been tested. Also, 80% of those surveyed believe that they are not at any risk of developing the disease and 83% have never even discussed the issue with their doctor.
The other side of the statistical coin is that it is estimated that nearly 5 million Americans have the disease and that 82% of those are Baby Boomers. The real problem is that it is estimated that 75% of those infected are unaware that they have the disease.
Those are startling statistics. Do you know the risk factors for Hep C? According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk factors are:
- Are a health care worker who has been exposed to infected blood
- Have ever injected illicit drugs
- Have HIV
- Received a piercing or tattoo in an unclean environment using unsterile equipment
- Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
- Received clotting factor concentrates before 1987
- Received hemodialysis treatments for a long period of time
- Were born to a woman with a hepatitis C infection
There is no reason to panic but we recommend you discuss Hepatitis C with your doctor and evaluate if you should be tested. This is a case of what you don't know can hurt you.