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McHenry County Heath Dept. offers hepatitis screenings Monday

Published: Thursday, May 8, 2014 10:33 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 8, 2014 11:47 p.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County Department of Health will offer low cost hepatitis C screenings on Monday, May 19 in recognition of National Hepatitis Testing Day.

Appointments are required at 815-334-4500.

McHenry County reported 55 cases of Hepatitis C in both 2012 and 2013, with 72 cases reported in 2011.

Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis C virus. It has been called a silent epidemic because most people with hepatitis C do not know they are infected.

The virus is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. It is not spread by casual contact, kissing, hugging, sneezing, coughing, breastfeeding or sharing food, eating utensils or glasses.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started recommending hepatitis C testing for everyone born from 1945 to 1965.

While anyone can get hepatitis C, up to 75% of adults infected with hepatitis C were born during those years.  Every year, approximately 15,000 Americans die from liver cancer or chronic liver disease associated with viral hepatitis.

However, many people can benefit from available treatment options that can eliminate the virus from the body and prevent further damage.

Most people infected with the virus don’t know they are infected so getting tested is the only way to know.

• Baby boomers are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adults.

• The longer people live with hepatitis C undiagnosed and untreated, the more likely they are to develop serious, life-threatening liver disease.

• Liver disease, liver cancer, and deaths from hepatitis C are on the rise.

• Getting tested can help people learn if they are infected for receive lifesaving care and treatment.

The CDC has an online Hepatitis Risk Assessment http://www.cdc.gov/HEPATITIS/riskassessment designed to determine an individual’s risk for viral hepatitis and asks questions based upon its recommendations for testing and vaccination. 

The Hepatitis Risk Assessment allows individuals to answer questions privately, either in their home or in a health care setting, and print their recommendations to discuss with their doctor.

It is not completely understood why baby boomers have high rates of hepatitis C. Most boomers are believed to have become infected in the 1970s and 1980s when rates of exposure to hepatitis C were the highest as methods of prevention were unknown.

While some people who get infected are able to get rid of the virus, most people will develop a chronic, or lifelong, infection. 

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