Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What's all this talk about Hepatitis?

Here's two articles I've seen recently:

CDC: All Baby Boomers Should Get Tested for Hep C
1 in 30 Baby Boomers Infected With Hepatitis C, but Few Know It
May 18, 2012 -- One in 30 baby boomers may be infected with the hepatitis C virus, but few know it until it's too late for their livers.

In the wake of new statistics showing more than 2 million baby boomers in the U.S. are infected with hepatitis C, the CDC is proposing new guidelines calling for all adults of that generation to be tested for the virus.

Officials say baby boomers, the generation born from 1945 through 1965, now account for more than 75% of all Americans living with the virus. But recent studies show few are aware they are infected or at risk for infection.

"Identifying these hidden infections early will allow more baby boomers to receive care and treatment, before they develop life-threatening liver disease," says Kevin Fenton, MD, PhD, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention, in a news release.

Current hepatitis C testing guidelines call for only those with certain risk factors to be tested for the virus.

The announcement of the proposed change coincides with the first-ever National Hepatitis Testing Day on May 19. After a public comment period, the new guidelines are expected to be finalized later this year.

Hepatitis C: Hidden Killer

The hepatitis C virus is spread through exposure to infected blood. The most common means of infection is through sharing of needles or other equipment used to inject drugs.

Researchers say most baby boomers were likely infected with hepatitis C when they were in their teens or 20s.

Some may have been infected when they experimented with injection drugs, even just once. Others may have been exposed to the virus through blood transfusions before modern blood-screening procedures came into effect in 1992.

Once infected, the hepatitis C virus causes progressive damage to the liver and can go undetected for many years without symptoms. Some people may have symptoms -- like fever, fatigue, dark urine, and abdominal pain -- six to seven weeks after getting infected.

Hepatitis C can lead to serious liver disease and liver cancer, which is the fastest-growing cause of cancer-related deaths. It is also the leading cause of liver transplants in the U.S.

The CDC says one-time testing of all baby boomers for the hepatitis C virus could identify more than 800,000 people infected with the virus, allow for early treatment to prevent liver disease, and save more than 120,000 lives.

Researchers say therapies can cure up to 75% of hepatitis C infections.

"With increasingly effective treatments now available, we can prevent tens of thousands of deaths from hepatitis C," says CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, in the release.

Read the original article, for the embedded links.

There are no vaccines for Hepatitis C, but there are for type A & B:
Vaccines for Hepatitis A & B
You may have a family member who has viral hepatitis. Or perhaps you recently saw a news brief about a celebrity who contracted hepatitis A or B. Whatever the reason, you want information about a viral illness that you may not have thought much about. What is viral hepatitis? Are you at risk for it? Do you need viral hepatitis vaccines?

Hepatitis A and B: Diseases of the Liver

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most often caused by a viral infection. There are three common types of hepatitis caused by viruses: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Vaccines have been developed that protect people from contracting hepatitis A and B. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

Hepatitis A and hepatitis B can be spread from person to person, although in different ways. They have similar symptoms, which include abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, joint pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).

Over the last 20 years, there has been a 90% decrease in cases of hepatitis A and an 80% decrease in hepatitis B cases in the U.S. Health experts believe that immunization efforts have led to this drop in rates of infection.

How Hepatitis Is Spread

Hepatitis A: About 20,000 people in the U.S. contract hepatitis A each year. The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool of the infected person. It is spread through contaminated food or water or by certain types of sexual contact.

Children who get hepatitis A often don't have symptoms, so they can have the virus and not know it. However, they can still spread it easily. Fortunately, children are now routinely vaccinated against hepatitis A.

Most people who get hepatitis A recover completely within two weeks to six months and don't have any liver damage. In rare cases, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and even death in older adults or people with underlying liver disease.

Hepatitis B: Every year, about 40,000 people in the U.S. become infected with hepatitis B. Acute hepatitis lasts from a few weeks to several months. Many infected people are able to clear the virus and remain virus-free after the acute stage. However, for others, the virus remains in the body, and they develop chronic hepatitis B infection, which is a serious, lifelong condition. About 1.2 million people in the U.S. have chronic hepatitis B. Of these, 15% to 25% will develop more serious health problems, such as liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer, and some people die as a result of hepatitis B-related disease.

Hepatitis B can be spread from one person to another from the blood, semen, or other body fluids of an infected person. In the U.S., sexual contact is the most common way that hepatitis B is spread. It can also be spread by sharing needles or other equipment used to inject drugs. In addition, a mother can pass hepatitis B to her baby during birth.

Hepatitis B cannot be spread by contaminated water, food, cooking, or eating utensils, or by breastfeeding, coughing, sneezing, or close contact such as kissing and hugging. [...]

The article goes on to describe who's most at risk, the effectiveness of vaccines, and who should have them. I found it interesting, partly because I've been thinking about getting training to work in healthcare. The vaccines are recommended for healthcare workers, and the article answered all my questions about the vaccines and how they work. Very informative.

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