EAU CLAIRE CO. HEALTH DEPARTMENT (PRESS RELEASE) -- About 90,000 people in Wisconsin have hepatitis C and less than half know it. World Hepatitis Day is a reminder to talk to your doctor, know your risks, and get tested to stay healthy.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. It is spread through the blood of a person who already has hepatitis C. The number of confirmed cases of hepatitis C reported in Eau Claire County increased from 37 in 2016 to 39 in 2017. Over the past five years, the rate of acute hepatitis C cases in Wisconsin has increased by 143% (Wisconsin Department of Health Services).
Who’s most at risk for hepatitis C?
• Baby boomers (people born 1945 to 1965). Many baby boomers have been living with the infection for years without knowing it.
• Young adults with a history of injection drug use. We are seeing the greatest increase of new infections among young people with a history of injection drug use and sharing drug use equipment like needles, cottons, water or cookers increases the risk of getting the illness.
According to research, the virus can stay infectious on surfaces outside of the body at room temperature for up to 6 weeks. Hepatitis C is dangerous because it often does not show symptoms. Once diagnosed, it can be treated and cured. Without treatment, hepatitis C can lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer. More people die from hepatitis C than all of the other 60 reportable infectious diseases combined.
The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is to get tested! Talk with your doctor and get tested. The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin provides free and confidential hepatitis C testing for those at-risk including: veterans, baby boomers, and those with a history of injection drug use.