Hepatitis C awareness and testing campaign launched

Saying that three fourths of Americans with Hepatitis C probably don’t know they have the disease, Colorado’s Hep C Connection this week launched a campaign to raise awareness and get people tested.

The disease is especially prevalent among baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, who account for almost 70 percent of known cases.

“Our relatives, friends, neighbors and coworkers need to hear the call,” said Nancy Steinfurth, executive director of Hep C Connection. “Many Colorado baby boomers are walking around with Hep C and don’t know it. They can avoid devastating, painful and life-threatening liver disease with a simple blood test. By the time the symptoms are noticeable, it’s much tougher to treat,” she said in a press release.

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver. It results from infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is spread through contact with the blood of an infected person.

A new national study showed that screening all Americans born between 1946 and 1964 could save 48,000 lives.

“Some people don’t get tested because they believe that the only way to have contracted Hep C is through intravenous drug use, and that’s just plain false,” Steinfurth said. “The truth is that many Americans – including many veterans – who had transfusions prior to 1992 were infected with Hep C before donated blood was accurately screened for the disease.”

Steinfurth said an additional reason to raise awareness among the baby boomer population is that the costs to treat the advanced liver disease that arises when hepatitis C is not treated early are high, and may include liver transplantation.

A listing of free confidential testing sites statewide is available by visiting the Hep C Connection website at www.hepc-connection.org or by calling 1-800-522-4372.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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