July 28th is World Hepatitis Day and marks an important day for both the Physicians East Department of Infectious Disease and the entire eastern North Carolina region. The World Health Organization has named July 28 World Hepatitis Day to generate more awareness of viral hepatitis with the hope of eliminating the disease by the year 2030.
Particularly of note, hepatitis C is the most prevalent form of hepatitis in America. In fact, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, hepatitis C affects an estimated 3.2 million people in the United States, many of which go undiagnosed. “If caught early, hepatitis C is a treatable, curable disease,” says Dr. T. Ryan Gallaher of Physicians East. “The real danger lies in the fact that most people don’t even realize they have the disease until it’s progressed to an advanced state.” The disease is often called “the silent killer” because a person infected with hepatitis C may not present any symptoms or signs of infection until severe damage has occurred.
Symptoms include stomach pain, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue and yellowing of the skin and eyes (also known as jaundice). However, Dr. Gallaher cautions that the signs and symptoms can be misleading.
“Because the disease often presents no symptoms until later stages, it’s important to be aware of the risk factors as well,” says Gallaher. “Limiting your exposure to those risk factors is essential to preventing the disease.”
Hepatitis C is transmitted through blood or bodily fluids, and can be spread in many ways including sharing needles, sexual intercourse, and birth (a mother passing it to a child). It’s recommended that a person get tested if he or she has increased risk factors.
If caught early, the disease can be cured and a variety of medications are available. Treatment options have greatly improved in recent years. In fact, a new form of treatment was just introduced this month. The side effects of these modern medications are much less severe than those previously available.
To learn more about hepatitis C or to schedule an appointment to get tested, visit PEInfectiousDisease.com or call 252.757.8027.
PHYSICIANS EAST URGES SCREENINGS TO HELP DETECT HEPATITIS C.