Health experts say it’s time to focus on an illness many of us don’t even think about. Thursday was National Hepatitis Testing Day.
Up to 5 million Americans have viral hepatitis, which causes liver cancer and liver failure, but most people don’t know they’re infected. You need a blood test to find out if you have hepatitis C or B because they cause few symptoms.
Hepatitis C is spread through blood mainly through contaminated needles from drug use, or in healthcare settings, and by blood transfusions before 1992. Testing is recommended for everyone born between 1945 and 1965 because they account for 75 percent of all cases
At Blair Gastroenterological Associates in Altoona, Dr. David Kerstetter says, “early detection’s key. Liver cancer is a preventable disease if you find the viral hepatitis and you treat it. If you don’t have cirrhosis of the liver, you negate that risk of liver cancer in hepatitis C patients.
Dr. Kerstetter says new medications effectively treat both hepatitis C and B within months. He says Asian Americans should be tested for hepatitis B because one in 12 are infected with the virus, which is prevalent in Asia and Africa.