The curious case of Hepatitis C

If one were to quiz local doctors about the top five diseases found on Darien’s reportable disease data tables, most would rattle off such illnesses as Lyme, influenza, MRSA and other conditions thought to be quite common. By and large, they would be correct.  But not 100% correct.

In 2010-11, the highest reported disease in Darien was hepatitis C, with 14 cases. Chlamydia, Lyme, influenza A and campylobacteriosis followed with 13, 11, 8 and 7,  respectively. Hepatitis C has consistently been in the top five reported diseases in Darien since 2008-09.

Lyme and influenza are frequently diagnosed and treated without testing and therefore not reported.

Hepatitis C is a viral organism most commonly transmitted through IV drug use, sexual exposures and through the reception of blood products before screening mechanisms were put into place in 1992.

Initially, patients go through an acute phase when infected, the symptoms of which are fairly nonspecific: Fatigue, malaise, nausea and weakness. The majority of these patients will then go on to develop chronic hepatitis C.

Chronic hepatitis C is a slow progressing infection that can lead to cirrhosis (hardening) of the liver as well as liver cancer. Liver transplantation for these patients is often the only hope.

In 2012, the CDC reissued its guidelines for screening certain patients for hepatitis C because an accurate test was developed, and there are also treatment options that work. It is important for certain populations to get tested, including people born between 1945 and 1965, anyone who has ever injected drugs, recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants before July 1992, patients who have ever received long-term hemodialysis treatment, anyone with known exposures to the virus, all people with HIV, patients with signs or symptoms of liver disease, and children born to hep C-positive mothers.

More info: contact your physician, or Moore at the health department at 656-7320.

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