Vaccination, testing and treatment can limit liver damage
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – Liver damage and liver disease caused by viruses kill more people in the U.S. each year than HIV/AIDS. Hepatitis C is the most common of those viruses that attack the liver. In Snohomish County, 649 people were found to have hepatitis C last year. Hepatitis B affected 263 local people in 2013.
Most people with a liver virus don’t know they have it until the disease has caused serious liver damage. New medications for treating hepatitis C can cure the disease and prevent the need for liver transplants or liver cancer treatment in the future.
Testing for hepatitis C can be as easy as a prick of your finger and 20-minutes for your results. Testing is recommended for everyone born between 1945 and 1965, since baby boomers are five times more likely to have the virus. The cost is covered by health insurance.
People who inject illegal drugs – even just once years ago – are another group at risk for getting viral hepatitis.
The Snohomish Health District works to prevent and limit the spread of viral hepatitis by testing and offering vaccines to people most at risk. A nurse regularly visits the Snohomish County Needle Exchange, jails, treatment centers, and homeless shelters as part of the agency’s public health outreach program.
“A discouraging trend is an increase in hepatitis C among young people who use drugs,” said Nurse Kathy Perkins, of the Hepatitis Outreach Program. “People with hep C die 23 years earlier than average. Doctors need to talk to their patients, assess risks, test for and treat viral hepatitis.”
Vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and B are recommended for people at risk. There is no vaccine against hepatitis C.
The Snohomish Health District will have information about viral hepatitis in its Everett building and at local libraries to recognize World Hepatitis Day on July 28. Learn more at www.worldhepatitisday.org.
Incorporated in 1959, the Snohomish Health District works for a safer and healthier community through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats.