According to DOH, more than 90,000 people in Washington are likely infected with hepatitis C, and the infectious disease that can cause liver damage, liver failure, and liver cancer.
The report describes the scale of the problem and provides recommendations for future action in the areas of prevention, testing, and treatment. They say that each year, there are about 550 hospitalizations in our state for those with hepatitis C. These medical visits total over $22 million. Along with this, there are also over 200 liver and bile duct cancers and 600 deaths in Washington every year linked to hepatitis C.
“Hepatitis C is an alarming epidemic of our time,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist. “We have an obligation to address hepatitis C by urging screening and the use of medications to treat the disease.”
The DOH describes the majority of those infected with hepatitis C as being born during the “baby boomer” years of 1945 through 1965. These residents had a higher risk of exposure to infected blood before modern medical procedures were in place.
Hepatitis C can also pass from a mother to child during delivery, and recently, the spread of the virus is increasing among younger people. Many times, this is due to sharing needles and other equipment used for injecting drugs.
There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, but procedures are available to treat the disease. Most people become cured after receiving treatment.
Many people do not know they are infected. People with hepatitis C may not have symptoms until decades after they were infected. It is important for those at risk to be tested for infection so they can get treated and prevent further spread of the disease.
Check your risks for hepatitis C and get tested if you learn you might be infected. If you might have hepatitis C, don’t share your toothbrush, razor, nail clippers, diabetes equipment, injection drug equipment, or other items that might have blood on them.
Learn more about hepatitis C and find information on hepatitis C prevention and testing in Washington by contacting the Department of Health’s Adult Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator at 360-236-3498.