May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month, and Maine CDC urges people to talk with their providers about testing for hepatitis.
US CDC reports that people born from 1945 through 1965 are five times more likely to be infected with Hepatitis C than other adults. There are approximately 3.2 million individuals living with hepatitis C in the country, and it is estimated that 75 percent of these individuals are Baby Boomer age (ages 50 to 70).
Most people living with hepatitis C do not know they are infected and can live with the disease for decades without having symptoms or feeling sick. If left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplant in the United States.
Symptoms of hepatitis C include fever, fatigue and loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, darkened urine, clay-colored stools, joint paint and jaundice. It is estimated that only 20 to 30 percent of individuals who have Hepatitis C experience symptoms. People who have ever injected drugs, shared needles and equipment, or who were born to a Hepatitis C positive mother join Baby Boomers in the highest risk category.
Recent advancement in therapies for treatment of hepatitis C can cure up to 95 percent of infections. Maine CDC recommends that people talk to their health care provider about their risk for hepatitis C.
Testing days are scheduled in May for individuals who are uninsured and at high risk for hepatitis C. The dates and locations are:
- May 18: Waterville Family Planning 18 Silver Street Waterville 207-509-3267
- May 19: Florence House (women's shelter) via Portland Public Health. 103 India St Portland 207-874-8446
Those who are interested in being tested should call the test site prior to the testing day to find out if they qualify for the free test.
For more information about hepatitis, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis
For more information about viral hepatitis resources in Maine, visit: www.mainepublichealth.gov/hepatitis