Each year in Colorado more than 4,000 new hepatitis A, B and C cases are reported. Since 1990, more than 11,000 people have been reported with a hepatitis B infection in Colorado. An estimated 80,000 Coloradans have been infected with hepatitis C.
Some individuals may be unaware they are infected with hepatitis C. Anyone who received blood, blood products or tissue before 1992 should be tested, even if they don’t feel sick. Blood transfusions and blood products could not be screened for the hepatitis C virus before 1992, so people who received these products might be infected. Other high-risk individuals who should be tested include injection drug users (past and present), persons who were ever on hemodialysis and those who ever had a sexual partner infected with hepatitis C.
For persons with risk factors for hepatitis B and C, Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association provides free hepatitis C screenings and low-cost hepatitis B screenings.
About 65 percent of people with hepatitis A and/or B do not know how they were infected. Anyone seeking protection from these diseases should be vaccinated. The vaccines against hepatitis A and B are very safe and highly effective. Do you work in food service or housekeeping? Does your job expose you to wastewater or sewage? You could be at risk for exposure to hepatitis A and B.
Although there is not a vaccine against hepatitis C, new treatments are available to prevent ongoing infection and liver cancer. The best way to prevent liver damage from hepatitis C is to get tested and get regular follow-up checkups from a health care provider.
Janice Poirot and Kim Boyce
Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association