Learning about hepatitis C and how to treat it.
We know that hepatitis C is an increasing problem, and that it’s closely tied to intravenous drug use. But what is it, exactly? How does it work in your body? Let’s find out.
Hepatitis C kills more Americans than HIV and AIDS, and the number of people who are infected with the disease is growing. Dramatically.
In the last five years, the number of new hepatitis C infections has more than tripled — the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 34,000 new infections in 2015. In 2014, the CDC estimated that between 2.7 and 3.9 million people in the U.S. had chronic hepatitis C.
New infections are increasing fast among people ages 20-30, mostly thanks to increasing use of injection drugs like heroin – the CDC estimates that about a third of injection drug users are infected with hepatitis C. And the CDC says growth of the virus among women of childbearing age is worrying because the virus can be passed from mothers to children.
But the group with the largest number of infected people? Baby boomers.
People born 1945-1965 are six times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than are others, and their risk of dying from it is much higher.
In part, that’s because people who used injectable drugs in the 1970s and ’80s were much more likely to share needles. Medical practices around blood were substantially less stringent in the past, and blood transfusion was a major cause of hepatitis C infection prior to 1992, when blood screening for the disease became available.
The disease also takes a long time to develop: After an initial “acute” phase, when only 20 percent of people who are infected have symptoms, the disease becomes “chronic” in about 75 percent of cases, if not treated. And treatment only reduces the chance it becomes chronic. And once it does, it stays in the body, eventually causing long-term liver problems, chronic disease and, in some cases, death.
|Read Full Article: What Is Hepatitis C? A Guide To The ‘Silent Epidemic’ And Its Effects In Maine | Maine Public|