Are you younger than 60 with diabetes? Have you ever had unprotected sex or more than one partner? Have you been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease? Are you traveling to a country where hepatitis is more common? These are some of the risk factors for chronic viral hepatitis.
Viral hepatitis is a silent epidemic in the U.S. More than 4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis B or C. Every year, approximately 15,000 Americans die from liver cancer or chronic liver disease associated with viral hepatitis. One in 3 people have been exposed to hepatitis B or C or both. Chronic hepatitis B or C rarely causes obvious symptoms in early stages but globally kills more than 1 million people each year.
Despite these statistics, viral hepatitis is not well known. As many as 75 percent of people with chronic hepatitis do not know they are infected. Without knowing they are infected, these individuals cannot receive life-saving care and treatment. They also may be transmitting the disease to others.
Should you be tested? Know all the risk factors for hepatitis disease and talk to your health care provider frankly about your risk factors. Don’t delay testing if you have any risk factors.
Prevent hepatitis. Safe and effective vaccines protect against hepatitis A and B. Reduce your risk factors. Behavior changes, such as use of condoms and reducing the number of sexual partners, can reduce your risk of contracting hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases.
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. A national education campaign called Know More Hepatitis is aimed at increasing awareness about this hidden epidemic. For additional information, visit www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/KnowMoreHepatitis.htm or www.worldhepatitisalliance.org.
We encourage everyone to recognize hepatitis risk factors, practice prevention, get tested and get vaccinated.
Frannie Johnson, RN
Jacque Malley, RN
Janice Poirot, RN
Toni Rietveld, RN
Beth Watson, RN
Kim Boyce, PA-C
Diane Miller, RN
Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association