Hepatitis C is a potentially deadly liver disease that affects an estimated 3.5 million people in the United States and up to 150 million worldwide. In fact, it kills more Americans than all other infectious diseases together! But in just the past few years, advances in treatment have been nothing short of astounding. A condition once treated with medication that caused serious side effects and delivered a low cure rate is now curable almost all of the time, with new drugs that have virtually no side effects.
Unfortunately, most people who could benefit from these new medications don’t know they are infected. You can live with this “silent” killer for decades without feeling ill, until it is too late to prevent serious liver damage. Learning about hepatitis C and talking to your doctor about being tested can keep this from happening to you.
For reasons that are not entirely clear, baby boomers (people born from 1945 through 1965) are six times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adults. But there is also a new epidemic in people under 30, primarily among those who inject heroin or other opioids. As this includes women of childbearing age, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of infected pregnant women, who risk transmitting the virus to their fetuses.
Up to 75 percent of people in the United States who have hepatitis C do not know it. The only way to find out is through a simple blood test. People may assume that their doctor tests for it during a routine checkup, but it is not part of a healthy adult’s regular physical exam.