Hepatitis C is a virus that infects the liver. It can cause liver disease, liver cancer, and even death if untreated. According to WHO statistics, 3% of the world’s population has been infected with Hepatitis C virus (HCV). This translates into 170 million chronic carriers of the virus. Statistics show that Baby Boomers (people born between the years of 1945 and 1965) are five times more likely to be infected with Hepatitis C. The reasons for this alarmingly high rate of infection are not completely known, but it is believed that many people had been infected during the 1970s and 1980s when the causes of transmission were not fully known and the impact of infection was not entirely appreciated.
Hepatitis C virus is spread through blood and body fluids. This means that it can be transmitted through sexual activity, sharing of IV drug needles, or during pregnancy and delivery. Blood products for transfusion have been screened since 1990 and have a very low risk of transmission (1 in 1.9 million).
Unless a patient has obvious symptoms, such as jaundice, he or she may not know that they are infected with the Hepatitis C virus. Many of the symptoms are non-specific, such as fatigue and joint pain. A Hepatitis C antibody test can detect the virus, and if this test is positive, further lab testing will be necessary to decipher whether the patient was recently infected or infected many years earlier. The virus can be circulating in the body for many years before symptoms are noticed.
The CDC recommends that anyone born between 1945 and 1965 get tested for Hepatitis C. At Doctor’s Express Urgent Care centers we offer inexpensive bedside blood testing for Hepatitis C with results in just 20 minutes. Patients that test positive will be referred for further testing and treatment by a specialist. Many patients can be treated with an antiviral therapy that has been successful in approximately 90% of people.
If you’re over 50 and wish to be tested for Hepatitis C, you can walk into any of our facilities from 8 am to 8 pm, Monday through Friday and 8am to 5pm or 8am to 8pm on weekends and holidays-no appointment or referral is needed. AFC Urgent Care is a national network of over 120 urgent walk in medical centers located in 26 states across the country. Our ten locations in Massachusetts can be found on our website www.DoctorsExpressBoston.com.
For more information on Hepatitis C, please visit the website: https://www.cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis/media/PDFs/FactSheet-boomers.pdf
By Dr. Kristina Orio