Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498
Date: May 8, 2013
Dover, DE - During Hepatitis Awareness Month, the Delaware's Division of Public Health (DPH) encourages individuals born between 1945 and 1965 (baby boomers) to speak to their doctor about getting a one-time blood test for the hepatitis C virus (HCV). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three-quarters of all hepatitis C infections and three-quarters of hepatitis C deaths occur in baby boomers. And baby boomers are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adult Americans.
The word "hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus. In the US, the most common types are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications and certain medical conditions can also cause hepatitis.
Every year, thousands of Americans die from liver cancer or chronic liver disease associated with viral hepatitis. Despite these statistics, as many as 75 percent people with chronic viral hepatitis do not know that they are infected. Without knowing if they are infected, these individuals cannot receive lifesaving care and treatment.
Hepatitis C is spread through contact with blood from an infected person. Many baby boomers may have been infected before the widespread screening of blood began in 1992. Others may have become infected from injecting drugs, and many others do not know how or when they were infected. An estimated 17,000 persons were newly infected in 2010.
According to the Delaware Electronic Reporting & Surveillance System (DERSS), in 2012, Delaware reported 1,608 cases of hepatitis C.
To protect yourself and your family, do not share needles or other equipment to inject cosmetic substances, drugs or steroids; do not share personal items that may come into contact with infected person's blood, such as razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes or glucose monitors; and do not get tattoos or body piercings from unlicensed facility or in an informal setting.
In addition to the baby boomers, testing is recommended if a person injects drugs or has injected drugs in the past (even only once); has HIV infection; has abnormal liver tests or liver disease; received donated blood before 1992; has been exposed to blood on the job through needle stick or injury with a sharp object; and those on hemodialysis.
Symptoms of HCV infection vary from none (70-80 percent) to severe symptoms, including fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored stools, joint pain and jaundice.
The DPH's Adult Viral Hepatitis Prevention Program recommends individuals born from 1945-1965 to complete the CDC online risk assessment survey. It only takes five minutes to complete the assessment and find out if you are at risk. To complete the survey go to: www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/dpc/hepatitis.html
The CDC estimates that the testing for chronic HCV infection among persons born during 1945-1965 will help identify about 800,000 additional hepatitis C cases nationwide. Linking these individuals to care could prevent the costly consequences of liver cancer and other chronic liver diseases.
For more information or to report a hepatitis case, call DPH's Adult Viral Hepatitis program at 302-744-1050 or visit: www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/dpc/hepatitis.html
Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.