May is Hepatitis Awareness Month

Hepatitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the liver and if left untreated may lead to cancer of the liver. Unlike Hepatitis A, which does not cause a long-term infection, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can become chronic, life-long infections. The most common types of infectious hepatitis in the United States are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Vaccines are available to prevent Hepatitis A and B infection.

More than 4 million Americans are living with chronic Hepatitis B or chronic Hepatitis C but most do not know they are infected. Chronic viral hepatitis can lead to serious liver problems including liver cancer. Every year, approximately 15,000 Americans die from liver cancer or chronic liver disease associated with viral hepatitis.

Due to historical prevalence, it is now recommended that all persons born between 1945 and 1965 get tested at least once. Persons who are currently or have previously injected drugs, have HIV infection, received clotting factor concentrates before 1987, and received blood and/or blood component, or an organ transplant before July of 1992 should be tested as well.

The Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all children at one year of age and for adults who may be at increased risk. The hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants at birth and for adults who may be at increased risk. The CDC has developed a risk assessment survey which provides personalized recommendations based on answers to a set of questions. The risk assessment tool can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/HEPATITIS/riskassessment/.

Hepatitis Testing Day is May 19th. If you would like to have a test done or have a discussion about the risk of hepatitis infection, please speak with your physician.

The Gallatin City-County Health Department offers the Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccine. If you would like more information please call 582-3100.