If You Are A Baby Boomer Heres Another Item For Your To Do List: Get Tested For Hepatitis C
As the youngest of its generation turns 50 this year, AARP has declared 2014 the Year of the Boomer.
There are many ways in which boomers contributions to society can be recognized and celebrated. But if you are one of the 77 million Americans born after the Second World War, your special year would take on greater meaning if you were to pause and think about your liver health.
Specifically, the American Liver Foundation is appealing to you to take the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and get tested for hepatitis C.
Why, you may be thinking, are you being asked to do this? The facts speak for themselves: Anyone can get hepatitis C, but baby boomers are five times more likely to be infected.
Of all the people in the United States who have hepatitis C, more than 75 percent were born between 1945 and 1965.
Over all, considering that an estimated 3.2 million people have hepatitis C in the United States, the disease has been described as an unrecognized health crisis.
There are vaccines available for the hepatitis A and B viruses, but no vaccine is available yet to prevent hepatitis C. So testing for hepatitis C is critical to finding and treating the disease at its earliest stages.
Hepatitis C the silent epidemic
The longer the virus goes undetected, the greater a persons risk of developing serious liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Why is the baby boom generation so susceptible?
What does the test involve?
Hep C 123 Program
All Adults Pregnant Women And People With Risk Factors Should Get Tested For Hepatitis C
Most people who get infected with hepatitis C virus develop a chronic, or lifelong, infection. Left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can cause serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death. People can live without symptoms or feeling sick, so testing is the only way to know if you have hepatitis C. Getting tested is important to find out if you are infected so you can get lifesaving treatment that can cure hepatitis C.
What Is Being Tested
Hepatitis C is a virus that causes an infection of the liver that is marked by liver inflammation and damage. Hepatitis C tests are a group of tests that are performed to diagnose hepatitis C infection and to guide and monitor treatment of the infection.
Hepatitis C tests include:
Hepatitis C is one of five viruses identified so far, including A, B, D, and E, that are known to cause hepatitis.
HCV is spread when contaminated blood enters the body, primarily though sharing needles and syringes during IV drug use. HCV is spread less commonly by sharing personal items contaminated with blood , through sex with an infected person, needlestick injuries to healthcare workers, unregulated tattooing, and from mother to baby during pregnancy and childbirth. Before tests for HCV became available in the 1990s, HCV was often transmitted by blood transfusions. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C.
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What Does A Reactive Hcv Antibody Test Result Mean
A reactive or positive antibody test means you have been infected with the hepatitis C virus at some point in time.
Once people have been infected, they will always have antibodies in their blood. This is true if they have cleared the virus, have been cured, or still have the virus in their blood.
A reactive antibody test does not necessarily mean that you currently have hepatitis C and a follow-up test is needed.
Hepatitis B Surface Antigen Test
This is a test to find out if you have a current infection. HBsAg is the earliest sign of the virus and disappears from your blood as the infection clears. A positive result indicates infection. If the antigen is not found , this shows that either you have never been exposed to hepatitis B or that you have recovered from infection and cleared the virus. The term surface refers to the outer surface of the virus itself.
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What Are The Suggestions For Prevention
The basic directions of prevention of this infection, as well as any other intestinal infection, are aimed at raising personal and general hygiene, providing hygienically correct drinking water, hygienic production and trade of food products, and hygienic disposal of waste materials. As the contact route of spread is the most common, priority is given to personal and general hygiene: handwashing, maintaining the hygiene of sanitary appliances, work, and living space.
If your test results show negative and that you have never suffered this infection, then you may want to consider getting vaccinated, especially if you belong to any of the risk groups mentioned in the article. Even though the infection is curable, leaves no serious damages, and isnt treated with any serious medications, not getting it is always a better way. Vaccination is your shortcut to immunity.
How Do I Know If I Have Hepatitis
Viral hepatitis, such as hepatitis A , hepatitis B and hepatitis C , is diagnosed by your symptoms, a physical exam and blood tests. Sometimes imaging studies such as a sonogram or CAT scan and a liver biopsy are also used.
What are the types of Hepatitis?
There are several types of hepatitis, but the three most common in the U.S. are:
- Hepatitis A â It is considered highly contagious but is not a long-term infection and usually has no complications. Your liver usually heals within two months. Preventable with a vaccination, it can be spread by eating or drinking something that has been contaminated with the stool of a person who has the virus.
- Hepatitis B â While it can lead to long-term liver damage, most children and adults recover within 6 months. You can spread the virus even though you show no symptoms. Pregnant women who are infected by the virus can pass it along to their newborn. Also, preventable through vaccine, hepatitis B is spread by:
- Having sex with someone who’s infected
- Sharing dirty needles
- Having direct contact with infected blood or the body fluids of someone who’s got the disease
Who’s at Risk for Hepatitis Infection?
You are at increases risk hepatis A if you meet one or more of these criteria:
- Children born to mothers who have HBV
- People with certain high liver function blood tests
For hepatitis C, the CDC recommends that you have a blood test if any of the following is true:
- Feeling sick to the stomach
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Where Can I Get A Hepatitis B Test
You can get tested for hepatitis B and other STDs at your doctors office, community health clinic, the health department, or your local Planned Parenthood health center.
Getting tested for STDs can sometimes feel scary, but once you get it over with it can really put your mind at ease. And if you DO have an STD, its best to know sooner so you can get the care you need.
STD testing isnt usually part of your regular checkup or gynecologist exam you have to ask for it directly. Be open and honest with your nurse or doctor so they can help figure out what tests are best for you. Dont be embarrassed: doctors are there to help, not judge.
Its extra important to get tested if youre pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Hepatitis B can easily spread to your baby during birth, which can be dangerous. If you have hepatitis B, your doctor can give your baby treatments.
How Could I Have Gotten The Virus Without Knowing It
The virus is passed through contact with stool from an infected person, typically via contaminated food or water. If a person infected with HAV does not wash their hands after using the bathroom, that person can pass the virus by handling raw fruits and vegetables consumed by others, or directly through person to person contact. You can also contract the virus by eating raw or improperly cooked seafood that had fed in contaminated waters. You may also contract the virus through sexual contact with someone who is infected but asymptomatic.
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Should You Be Tested For Hepatitis
Millions of Americans are living with chronic hepatitis but most don’t know they have the infectious disease. That’s why the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention is promoting May 19 as Hepatitis Testing Day. In the U. S., the most common forms of the infection are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C . Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist Dr. Stacey Rizza says all forms hepatitis are dangerous for the person infected and that HCV is of particular concern. She explains it’s also an issue for the public.
“If somebody gets cancer or gets diabetes or gets arthritis, that is a problem for them, but it doesnt, in fact, impact anybody else in their health. Whereas in infectious diseases, as well as hepatitis C, if somebody gets hepatitis C, not only could it impact them, but they could potentially transmit it to others so it has more of a domino effect in society,” says Dr. Rizza. “Thats why we care so much about infectious diseases, and decreasing the incidence so that there are fewer people to infect other people.”
Watch: Dr. Stacey Rizza talks about hepatitis C.
Baby boomers account for 75 percent of HCV infections however, a new demographic is rising. The opioid crisis in the U.S. has been linked to increases in both hepatitis B and hepatitis C in people under the age of 40, specifically those who inject drugs. The CDC says these infections have reached epidemic proportions in many areas of the nation.
Those who should get tested include:
Getting A Hepatitis C Test From Your Doctor
Ideally, you should talk with a doctor about hepatitis C screening. Theyll ask you about any potential exposures or risk factors and will probably order a blood test to check for HCV antibodies. You can get your blood tested anywhere that does routine blood work.
Its the same procedure as getting a routine blood test.
We reviewed each brands business and medical practices, checking:
- their BBB rating, if they have one
- whether theyve been involved in any lawsuits
- whether they provide help interpreting your results
- whether they make any unacceptable health claims
All companies on the list also state they use accredited labs to process their testing kits.
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Letsgetchecked Hepatitis B And C Test
- Price: $$
- Pros: tests for both hepatitis B and C, includes option to speak with a nurse if you test positive
- Cons: no option to test for hepatitis C only
If you want to buy a hepatitis C test from LetsGetChecked, you have to buy the hepatitis B and C testing bundle.
The hepatitis B surface antigen test checks for hepatitis B specific antigens and antibodies in the blood. A positive test means you can transmit the virus, but it cant tell you if you have a chronic or acute infection.
Additionally, a negative test will only tell you that youre not currently contagious. You can test negative and still have hepatitis B. LetsGetChecked doesnt include this info on the product page.
Testing for hepatitis C involves an HCV antibody test. Youll need additional testing if you test positive for HCV antibodies.
Tests from LetsGetChecked should be safe and accurate when used as directed. Still, you should talk with your doctor about your results.
Both the hepatitis B and C tests involve taking a finger prick sample. You can take the sample in the morning and send it back the same day.
Results should arrive within 2 to 5 business days. If either test returns a positive result, a nurse will get in touch to go over what this means. However, we recommend also going over your results with your doctor.
- Pros: includes comprehensive STI testing
- Cons: not available in all states, some customer service complaints
You can use an FSA or HSA account to pay for the test, or pay out of pocket.
How Is The Test Used
The various hepatitis C tests have different uses:
The HCV antibody test may be performed as part of an acute viral hepatitis panel to determine which of the most common hepatitis viruses is causing your symptoms.
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What To Expect When Getting Tested For Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a rather common infection, and youd be surprised how easy it is to catch it. Its caused by a virus that attacks your liver causing its inflammation, leading to a series of not-so-pleasant symptoms. As was said before, anyone can catch it, however, there are some groups of people who are at more risk than others. The list is long, but lets say the highest risk is among frequent travelers, people who do drugs, homeless people, and people living in poor hygienic circumstances.
It affects everyone, regardless of gender, race, or age. In our conditions, infections occur more often in children who get away with it having no symptoms at all. The good thing about it is that in this case, it leaves a solid and lifelong immunity.
How can you know if you are infected? Just as with any other virus you get tested. If you have questions about where to get tested, visit stdtestingnow.com. As for what to expect when getting tested, well list a couple of things below.
The first thing you should know is that when taking the test, theyre going to take your blood sample. So, the results will show if you are currently infected and if you have suffered the infection at some point in your life. This is visible through the antibodies found in your blood. There are usually not many preparations involved in taking it, but you have felt some symptoms of weakness, you may want to consider taking someone with you.
When Is It Ordered
The CDC, the Infectious Diseases Society of America , the American Association of the Study of Liver Diseases , and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend screening with an HCV antibody test at least once in your lifetime when you are 18 years old or older . The CDC also recommends HCV screening for women with each pregnancy or for anyone who requests it.
One-time screening is recommended regardless of age if you:
- Have ever injected illegal drugs
- Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992*
- Have received clotting factor concentrates produced before 1987
- Were ever on long-term dialysis
- Are a child born to HCV-positive women
- Have been exposed to the blood of someone with hepatitis C
- Are a healthcare, emergency medicine, or public safety worker who had needlesticks, sharps, or mucosal exposure to HCV-positive blood
- Have evidence of chronic liver disease
- Have HIVabout 21% of those with HIV are also infected with HCV .
*The blood supply has been monitored in the U.S. since 1992, and any units of blood that test positive for HCV are rejected for use in another person. The current risk of HCV infection from transfused blood is about one case per two million transfused units.
Screening at regular intervals is recommended if you have ongoing risk of HCV infection, such as current injection drug use and sharing needles or syringes.
- Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting
- Dark urine
- Yellowing of eyes and skin
An HCV RNA test is ordered when:
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How Is Liver Damage Assessed
If you have hepatitis C, doctors can gauge the level of liver damage you’ve experienced. One useful diagnostic tool is called a hepatic function panel, a group of blood tests performed together that examine the levels of certain liver enzymes, bilirubin , and proteins circulating in the blood.
Higher-than-normal levels of the liver enzymes, indicate that your liver is damaged, possibly from cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Albumin may be low, and your total bilirubin levels may also be elevated.
Along with the hepatic function panel, your doctor may also order two other tests: one test to determine the levels of the liver enzyme gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase in your blood, and a prothrombin time test that measures how well your blood clots.
A liver biopsy, in which a liver tissue sample is removed with a thin needle inserted through your skin and into your liver, can provide more details about the amount of scarring and damage HCV has caused.
Your doctor may also order an imaging test, such as a computerized tomography scan, magnetic resonance imaging , or ultrasound, to see if your hepatitis C has caused liver cancer, a possible complication of hepatitis C.
Additional reporting by Deborah Shapiro.