Hepatitis C is an infection that is transmitted almost exclusively by infected blood to blood contact and attacks the liver. In over 80% of cases hepatitis C becomes chronic and can cause cirrhosis and/or liver cancer. According to the CDC out of the 3.2 million Americans with chronic hepatitis C only around half of them know that they’re infected which is unfortunate because these people aren’t receiving the treatment they need and may be practicing risky behaviors that can accelerate the disease such as drinking alcohol.
“Hepatitis C mortality has, regrettably, been on the rise for a number of years,” said Dr. John Ward, director of the CDC’s viral hepatitis division and an author of the new study.
But, he told Reuters Health, “many of those deaths could be prevented.”
The reason Hepatitis C rates are so high is attributed to a couple of main factors such as Hepatitis C symptoms are almost non-existent while the virus slowly destroys the liver and many “baby boomers” who received blood transfusions infected with Hepatitis C are starting to show symptoms and consequences of having the disease.
Health officials are urging anyone that has had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992 be tested as well as anyone who has been an intravenous needle user.
Health officials say that it’s extremely important that at risk people get tested as soon as possible because it could extend their lives extensively.