Tag Archives: hepatitis

DHEC offering Free Hepatitis Testing during Hepatitis Awareness Month

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, and while National Hepatitis Testing Day is on May 19, DHEC’s health departments will be providing free testing on May 16.  Know Hepatitis LogosAppointments are encouraged. Please call 1-855-4-SCDHEC (472-3432) to schedule your appointment.

There are many strains of the hepatitis virus but for this year’s Hepatitis Awareness Month DHEC is focusing on Hepatitis A, B, and C, the major causes of contagious liver disease. The department urges anyone who has ever injected drugs, even once, and individuals born between 1945 and 1965, to talk with their healthcare professional about getting tested for hepatitis C and ask if they should be vaccinated for hepatitis A and B.

Hepatitis A is highly contagious. It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A may occur in the context of community-wide epidemics, or from exposures to food contaminated with the virus. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. It can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex, needle-sharing by IV drug users or caring for someone who is ill.

Both Hepatitis B and C are usually spread when blood or another body fluid from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Hepatitis B and C virus infections cause some people to develop an acute, or short-term, illness, while others develop a chronic, or long-term, illness.

In 2016, there were 33 cases of acute hepatitis B and 457 cases of chronic hepatitis B reported in South Carolina. Hepatitis B cases were on a steady decline nationally after the widespread use of the hepatitis B vaccine, but in recent years that rate of decline has slowed.

Nearly half of people living with the hepatitis C virus have no symptoms and don’t know they are infected. The vast majority of new infections go undiagnosed. In South Carolina, almost 6,000 people were reported with chronic hepatitis C in 2016. Of those, the majority were baby boomers who were born between 1945 and 1965. Baby boomers are six times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than those in other age groups. They are also at a much higher risk of death from the virus.

Nationally, the number of new hepatitis C infections has nearly tripled over five years, reaching a 15-year high. The greatest increases and the highest overall number of cases were among young people ages 20-29 who inject drugs.

Vaccinations are available for hepatitis A and B but not C.

For more information about viral hepatitis and where to get tested visit www.scdhec.gov/ViralHepatitis or call the STD/HIV Hotline at 1-800-322-2437.

Why You Need to Know About Hepatitis

By Linda Brown, MPH, DHEC Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator

May is National Viral Hepatitis Awareness Month and, on May 19, South Carolina joins the nation in observing Hepatitis Testing Day. That day is set aside to emphasize the importance of being tested for the hepatitis C virus (HCV). It is estimated that between 70,000 and 85,000 people in South Carolina are living with chronic hepatitis C. According to the CDC, HCV killed more than 20,000 Americans in 2014.

What you don’t know can hurt

Because many people who are infected with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection, and it often doesn’t cause symptoms until it has caused advanced liver disease, getting tested is vitally important to curing and preventing the spread of this disease.

More than three million Americans in the U.S. have chronic hepatitis C, but as many as 50 percent don’t know they are infected.

This often silent but potentially deadly virus infects the liver, and most people can live with the infection for many years without feeling sick. By the time a person shows symptoms, they are often in an advanced stage of liver disease, including cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Am I at risk?

Hepatitis C is spread when blood from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Take the CDC’s simple risk assessment to help determine if you  should seek testing: www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/RiskAssessment/.

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One of the main groups that need to be tested for Hepatitis C are baby boomers – people who were born from 1945-1965. Seventy-five percent of people with hepatitis C were born during these years, so it is recommended that all baby boomers be tested at least one time in their lives, regardless of any other risk factors.

Another priority group that should get tested is anyone who has ever injected drugs into their body.

There’s a cure

New medications are available that are highly effective that can provide a cure within eight to 12 weeks. This is why DHEC staff, in collaboration with community partners, encourage people to talk to their health care provider about their risk for HCV.

Be #HepAwareARE YOU AT RISK? Millions of Americans have VIRAL HEPATITIS. Most don't know it. Take this online assessment to see if you're at risk. http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/riskassessment/

Learn more about HCV, take the risk assessment quiz and talk to your healthcare provider about testing and treatment. Getting a simple blood test is a vital first step into knowing if you have hepatitis C and getting care and treatment if you need it. Visit www.cdc.gov/hepatitis.

 

 

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Rapid Response

By Jamie Shuster

hep-aStopping the spread of infectious diseases requires a rapid response by public health staff, as well as a willingness to coordinate efforts across geographic divides.

Last week, an alert was issued warning that as many as 5,000 people who visited a restaurant in Springfield, Missouri between May 8 and 16, might have been exposed to hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by a virus. People usually become sick within 15 to 50 days of exposure to the virus, so it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible to prevent the virus from developing into hepatitis A infection.

Treatment consists of a two-dose vaccine. The first vaccine dose must be given within 14 days of exposure to be effective, which means those at risk need to be reached and treated quickly.

Earlier this week, two people visiting the South Carolina Lowcountry heard the news and realized they had dined at the restaurant in Missouri during the specified dates. They were approaching the end of the 14-day window to get a vaccine and called DHEC for help. Our Lowcountry Public Health immunization team quickly connected them with our epidemiology staff to perform an assessment.

After determining that the individuals should get vaccinated, our Lowcountry immunization team offered to provide the vaccinations during weekend hours, if necessary, to make sure treatment was received quickly. Both individuals received vaccines here in the Lowcountry and were able to carry on their visit with peace of mind.

Thank you to our Lowcountry Immunization and Epi Teams for your quick response and willingness to go the extra mile to help these individuals, who were far from home, access post-exposure hepatitis A treatment.

Update on hepatitis A exposure investigation

By Jamie Shuster

Last Friday we were notified that an employee who worked at a popular Hilton Head Island restaurant the evening of February 15 had tested positive for hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by a virus. People usually get sick within 15-50 days of exposure to the virus, so it’s important to get preventive treatment right away. This treatment consists of a vaccine, which must be given within 14 days of exposure to be effective.

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