August 7, 2013

Hepatitis C represents silent health crisis

blogger_HCVJon was concerned about his sick friend and wanted to help by donating blood. The next day, however, Jon received an urgent message to return to the blood bank. There was startling news. Jon had hepatitis C, a potentially fatal disease.

Jon learned that hepatitis C is transmitted through blood. But he had never done drugs. He had no tattoos or piercings. He had never worked with blood products. Then he finally remembered. His appendix had ruptured 24 years prior, and he had received a blood transfusion. The hepatitis C virus had been growing in his liver since he was 14, and he had never felt sick.

Dr. Bryce Smith of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that in 2012 this warning was made: The United States is in the middle of an unrecognized health crisis.

Hepatitis C is a silent, life-threatening viral infection affecting more than 3 million people. But 75 percent of those infected don’t know their livers are slowly being damaged, sometimes fatally. One of every 30 people born between 1945 and 1965 is infected.

How did the boomers acquire this deadly infection? Some may have gotten the virus while injecting illegal drugs. But many were innocent victims who received blood, blood products or organ donations at some point in their lives.

Some are nurses, physicians, medical technologists, EMTs, any of whom may have been exposed during their work. Scientists didn’t even recognize the virus until the late 1980s, and blood donors weren’t tested for the virus until 1992.


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