Hepatitis C: Get checked. Get care. Get cured.
Hepatitis C is the most commonly reported bloodborne infection in the United States. The hepatitis C virus is transmitted through the blood, most commonly through injection drug use. Populations who are most at risk:
- Anyone born from 1945 through 1965
- Anyone who has received donated blood or had an organ transplant before 1992
- Anyone on hemodialysis
- Anyone with abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Anyone with certain medical conditions, such as chronic liver disease and HIV or AIDS
- Anyone born to a mother with hepatitis C
- Anyone who has injected drugs, even if they only injected once many years ago
- Anyone getting a tattoo in an unregulated setting
- Anyone incarcerated engaging in behaviors that result in the exchange of blood or unsterilized needles
- Health and safety workers who have been exposed to blood on the job through a needlestick or injury with a sharp object
The hep C virus is more contagious than HIV; it is possible for one person to spread the virus to several people. It causes chronic liver disease that can slowly progress for years without symptoms or physical signs which can ultimately lead to death. You can have hep C and not even know it. Due to how easily the virus can be spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a one-time hepatitis C testing of all adults 18 years and older and all pregnant women. For people with risk factors, including people who inject drugs, the CDC recommends they be tested regularly.
That’s a lot of bad news. But there’s good news, too. Hepatitis C can be cured!
The 3 Cs of Hep C: Check. Care. Cure.
Indiana has reduced the barriers for hep C testing and treatment. From 2017 to 2018, Indiana saw a decrease of 1,700 chronic cases statewide, due in part to an increase in hep C prevention efforts, more screenings and more people being cured, which results in fewer people spreading the virus. But there is more work to be done to stop the spread of this deadly virus, especially given the fact that people can carry it unknowingly for years.
Getting tested for hep C is as easy as getting your blood drawn. Testing is readily available and is free for Medicaid members when ordered by a physician. Patients covered by Medicare, HIP and other insurance should check with their carriers to see what kind of coverage is offered; in many cases there is coverage available for patients who are high-risk or whose physician ordered a hep C screening.
Hep C testing is a two-step process: first, you take an antibody test; then, you confirm the result with a secondary test. Individuals without insurance who already have a positive antibody test can receive free confirmatory testing at a viral hepatitis services site. In addition, if a person is at risk for HIV, screening and confirmatory testing is available at these HIV outreach testing sites.
If you test positive for the hepatitis C virus, the next step is to contact your physician to get care.
While there is currently no vaccine available for hep C, there is a cure. Persons infected with hep C should seek care with a physician who can prescribe treatment. A cure is as simple as one pill a day for 8-16 weeks with few side effects.
Following treatment, 90-95% of patients are cured. That means countless lives are saved. Individuals who have been cured can be reinfected, however, and need to take precautions as outlined by their physician.
If you’re one of thousands of individuals who have hepatitis C and don’t know it, following the 3Cs (Check, Care, Cure) can save your life. If you have any of the risk factors listed above, contact your physician to request a test, or see the list of treatment sites available in Indiana.
Follow the 3Cs to End Hep C
If you knew you had a life-threatening disease and could cure it easily and with little to no side effects, wouldn’t you? What if you have a life-threatening disease and don’t know it? Follow the 3Cs to end hep C. Get checked, get care, get cured.
Contact a physician today to schedule your Hepatitis C screening. It could save your life.
To learn more about hep C, the impact the virus has on the liver—one of the most important organs in the human body— and the recommended treatment, check out these resources: