“On World Hepatitis Day, July 28, 2015, the DHMH Infectious Disease Prevention and Health Services Bureau calls on Marylanders at risk for Hepatitis C to get tested,” said DHMH Deputy Secretary of Public Health Howard Haft. “Too many people in this state are infected and unaware of that status.”
Three and a half-million to 5.3 million people live with viral hepatitis. Of those, an estimated 2.7 million are infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C, the most common chronic, blood-borne viral infection in Maryland, is a blood-borne virus that causes liver infection.
National estimates indicate that between 73,000 to 106,000 Marylanders have become infected with HCV during their lifetime. Although 15 percent to 25 percent of those infected will clear the virus from their bodies without treatment, HCV infection becomes chronic in 75 percent to 85 percent of cases. Complications of chronic HCV infection include cirrhosis, liver failure and cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). Hepatitis C is often referred to as the “silent epidemic” because symptoms of infection may not appear for a number of years. For this reason, many people living with HCV are unaware of their status. Because of new innovations in HCV treatment, curative therapies with minimal side effects are now available.
Efforts to identify and treat people living with chronic HCV infection are essential to combat Maryland’s epidemic. DHMH partners with such organizations and agencies as the Johns Hopkins Infectious Disease Center for Viral Hepatitis, federally qualified health centers and local health departments to build the capacity for HCV testing, care and treatment in primary care settings. The goal of these partnerships is to improve the health of Marylanders by reducing HCV related morbidity and mortality.
People at greatest risk for contracting the virus include:
- Baby boomers born during the years 1945 through 1965;
- Anyone born to a mother infected with Hepatitis C;
- Anyone who received blood products with clotting factor before 1987;
- Anyone who received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992;
- Anyone who has been on kidney dialysis for several years;
- Anyone with HIV;
- Anyone who has injected drugs, even if only one time; and
- Any health or public safety workers who have been stuck with a needle or other sharp object with blood from a person with Hepatitis C or unknown Hepatitis C status.
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