Older Adults Should Be Educated, Encouraged to Screen for Hepatitis C 

Ravikumar RHS

TROY, Ohio (September 14, 2017) -  The late discovery of Hepatitis C and lack of screening for the disease in blood products has placed a generation at-risk for unknowingly carrying the disease.

Hepatitis is a viral disease that causes inflammation or irritation of the liver, and is categorized into three different forms. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Each form has a different source for its cause and is unique in the way it affects a person’s body

Hepatitis A is most commonly transmitted through contaminated food in places around the world that lack proper hygiene. This form causes an acute infection of the liver, but can be cleared with supportive care from a physician or hospital. Hepatitis B is a virus that is transmitted through bodily fluids, and is most commonly spread through sexually transmitted diseases. This is the only form of the disease that has a proven vaccination to fight it. 

Hepatitis C is a relatively new diagnosis of the disease and one which is getting more media attention in an effort to educate older adults who may have been infected by the disease, but don’t know it, according to Leelmohan Ravikumar, MD, a family physician with Troy Primary Care Physicians.

“The reason Hepatitis C has now gotten a lot more attention in the media is that several decades ago there was no testing done for any blood products for Hepatitis C because it was an unknown disease,” said Dr. Ravikumar, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “That’s why there is now an incentive to get elderly adults tested for it because they grew up during a time when we didn’t screen products for the disease.”

Anyone can get Hepatitis C; however, studies have shown that three in four individuals who get the disease are baby boomers, or those born between 1945 and 1965, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most baby boomers are believed to have become infected in the 1960s through the 1980s when the transmission of the disease was at its highest, the CDC said.

The following are important facts to understand if you, or someone you love, is an adult who was born during this two-decade period.

Testing is paramount – The only way to know if you have the disease is to get tested. Don’t wait for your provider to bring up the topic. Talk to your doctor about whether you should get tested and how it is done.

There are multiple sources for infection – Hepatitis C is spread primarily through contact with blood from an infected individual, however, baby boomers have been known to be infected from medical equipment or procedures before universal precautions and infection control were adopted. Others could have become infected from contaminated blood products before widespread screening was implemented, the CDC said.

You may never have symptoms – Up to 80 percent of individuals who are infected by Hepatitis C have no symptoms, the CDC said. Those who do feel the effects of the disease are likely to present in multiple ways that can leave heath care providers considering a variety of reasons for a person’s complaints.

“The human liver does almost everything for the body,” Dr. Ravikumar said. “Hepatitis is actually hard to diagnose and is commonly missed. You can have flu-like symptoms to complete liver failure.”

There is hope for a cure – It is possible for some individuals infected with the disease to have their body fight it off with their own immune system. Others may benefit from medical treatments that have advanced over the past 10 years, including medical therapy that delivers a very high cure rate. 

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