What you need to know about Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a disease many have heard of, but doctors say few patients are familiar with the symptoms and risks.

Infectious Disease Dr. Elena Gatskevich says it’s known as a silent epidemic. “More than 2 million people in the United States are infected, and a lot of them, 50 percent of them, do not know that they have the infection.”

While most patients have no symptoms, doctors say Hepatitis C can present with vague symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and loss of appetite. “We try to diagnose people. It’s a simple blood test that can be done at a primary care physician’s office. If a patient is positive they will be referred to infectious disease or a gastroenterology office,” said Dr. Gatskevich.

The infection is caused by a virus that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation. Doctors say roughly 80 percent of people are not familiar with the disease, including how they can be infected. “It is important to know. It is important for prevention and making sure that people will not spread the disease to others,” said Dr. Gatskevich.

The virus is spread by contact with contaminated blood. “We recommend testing for everybody who’s born from 1945 to 1965, anyone who has any exposure to blood, IV drugs, and sometimes if people have unexplained symptoms we do recommend testing,” said Dr. Gatskevich.

If a patient is diagnosed with Hepatitis C, doctors say it is treatable. “Right now, we know that it’s a curable disease. The duration of treatment compared to years ago is only three to maximum six months, and the cure rate is excellent,” said Dr. Gatskevich.

Knowing the risks and treatments can help patients protect themselves from getting and spreading the disease.

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