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By Dr. Todd Fife
Seeley-Swan Medical Center, Partnership Health Center 

Hepatitis C Screening

Health Happens

 

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Dr. Todd Fife

Lately it seems as if the Internet and television have been flooded with new recommendations regarding Hepatitis screening and this has sparked many a great conversation in the clinic.

So, what's up with these new recommendations? What is hepatitis anyway, and why should I be worried about it? Don't we get immunized for hepatitis? Why should you be screened?

Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver. This can be caused by exposure to toxins, drugs, infections and certain diseases. When we hear about hepatitis screening, however, we are talking about infections-particularly those cause by one of the hepatitis viruses.

We immunize against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B (two separate viruses), but there is not an immunization for the Hepatitis C virus which can cause chronic inflammation of the liver, cirrhosis and even liver cancer.

A relatively new recommendation from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is that baby boomers (those born between the years of 1945 and 1965) should all be screened for Hepatitis C. It is kind of an unusual recommendation, as typically we would only screen those that have had known exposure (like an IV drug user, sexual exposure or contact with infected blood).

While anyone can get Hepatitis C, we know that up to 75 percent of adults infected with Hepatitis C are baby-boomers. While I am not sure specifically why this is the case, I know that if you are a baby-boomer then you grew up in an era when people weren't being cautious about Hepatitis C transmission--for example, it wasn't even until 1992 that screening of blood (for those needing transfusions) for Hepatitis C became widespread.

While an acute Hepatitis infection can cause one to feel poorly, it can just as easily be silent until severe disease symptoms present. Hence the need for screening.

So, in simple terms, what does that mean for you? If you are age 52-72 this year, then consider getting screened for Hepatitis C during your next checkup. This is done with a simple blood test. Yes, Medicare and most insurances will cover this screening.

Consider also discussing vaccinations against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. Also, be kind to your liver-be careful with medications (talk to your provider), be cautious with supplements and vitamins, and avoid excessive alcohol intake.

Finally, check out the CDC's website to learn more-search Hepatitis C screening. Stay healthy and as always, see you at the clinic.

 

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