Getting Tested for Hepatitis C | VideoMichelle San Miguel | 8/22/2012
The CDC and the North Dakota Department of Health are now urging baby boomers to get screened. Nationwide one in 30 baby boomers has been infected with Hepatitis C and doesn`t know it. That`s because there are usually few to no symptoms.A simple blood test for Hepatitis C could be a matter of life and death.
"The virus is very unusual. It slowly kills liver cells," said Dr. Kent Martin, an infectious disease consultant at Medcenter One.
Hepatitis C is divided into four stages. It can take as long as seven to 10 years to advance to the next stage, which is why it`s not uncommon for someone to have the disease for 30 years and not know it.
Dr. Martin said, "The average person that`s walking around on the street who has Hepatitis C, most of them have no idea they have it. They have no symptoms."
If left untreated, Hepatitis C can cause serious liver diseases, which could lead to a liver transplant or death.
The CDC is now urging Baby Boomers to get tested. The CDC says many of them were infected with the virus decades ago and don`t know they have it. But the state health department isn`t just advising them to be screened. The state says since 2010 it`s seen an increase in 18 to 24 years old contracting the disease.
"The most common risk factor today if you were getting infected today is recreational drug use," said Sarah Weninger, viral hepatitis prevention coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Health.
"If you use recreational drugs, within one year you are absolutely certain of having acquired the virus," Dr. Martin said. "By far the greatest majority of people that come in to see me with Hepatitis C have used drugs in the past and that means either they snorted drugs or they used it intravenously."
And regardless of whether a person has used drugs, the state says with 543 cases of Hepatitis C reported in North Dakota in 2011, it`s a good idea for people to get tested.
Dr. Martin says if a patient does have Hepatitis C, it can usually be treated, depending on how much the virus has advanced. On average it takes between 24 to 48 weeks to cure.