Michiganders are Encouraged to Learn More About Viral Hepatitis

Contact: Angela Minicuci (517) 241-2112

For Immediate Release: May 21, 2014
LANSING, Mich. – More than 4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis and may not know it. In observation of May being Hepatitis Awareness Month and May 19th being national Hepatitis Awareness Day, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are encouraging families to protect themselves from hepatitis by being informed.

Every year, approximately 15,000 Americans die from liver cancer or chronic liver disease associated with viral hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is caused by a virus that infects the liver. Hepatitis A virus (HAV), Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) are the most common. Getting Hepatitis A and B vaccine can protect against getting HAV and HBV, and early detection and treatment can help slow disease progression. Hepatitis is not something people should take lightly, and if anyone feels they are at risk, MDCH strongly encourages them to visit their doctor.

The CDC has an online Hepatitis Risk Assessment tool to help determine the need for hepatitis testing or if vaccination is recommended. This tool allows you to privately enter information and receive recommendations based on CDC’s guidelines.

“I would like to encourage all Michigan residents to go to this website to see if they are at risk for hepatitis” said Dr. Matthew Davis, chief medical executive for the MDCH. “Talk to your doctor about ways to protect your family, and people with hepatitis should talk to their doctor about treatment options.”

HAV is spread by eating food or drinking water with HAV in it or from close contact with a person who has the virus. HBV is spread through contact with blood or body fluids of an HBV infected person, unprotected sex, or from infected mothers to their infants at birth. HCV is spread through contact with the blood of an HCV infected person or by sharing syringes or drug equipment with someone who has HCV.

Hepatitis A and B vaccines are recommended for all children in Michigan. Both vaccines are also recommended for adults who are at risk of infection and for those who want to be protected from getting HAV and HBV. Talk to your doctor about getting the Hepatitis A and B vaccines so that you can be safe from getting HAV and HBV.

In 2012, the CDC released new guidelines recommending that people born between 1945-1965 get a one-time blood test for HCV. Rates of HCV in this age group are five times higher than other adults because the risk of HCV infection was greater in the 1970s and 1980s. Some people with hepatitis may never show any symptoms of having the disease. Without a blood test to confirm infection, people can continue to unknowingly spread the disease to others.

To access the Hepatitis Risk Assessment tool, visit www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/riskassessment. For information from the CDC, visit www.cdc.gov/KnowMoreHepatitis. For more about information about viral hepatitis, visit www.michigan.gov/hepatitis.

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