Meigs Health Matters

By Sherry Hayman - For the Times-Sentinel

In 2014, there were an estimated 30,500 cases of acute Hepatitis C virus infections reported in the United States. An estimated 2.7-3.9 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C.

In Meigs County alone, there were 15 new cases of Hepatitis B reported and 73 new cases of Hepatitis C, that doesn’t take into consideration the cases that were already reported in earlier years.

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is also the name of a family of viral infections that affect the liver; the most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. All three types of Hepatitis are caused by viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently.

Hepatitis A appears only as an acute or newly occurring infection and does not become chronic. People with Hepatitis A usually improve without treatment. It is transmitted either person to person or through contaminated water.

Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can also begin as acute infections, but in some people, the virus remains in the body, resulting in chronic disease and long-term liver problems. There are vaccines to prevent Hepatitis A and B; however, there is not one for Hepatitis C. If a person has had one type of viral hepatitis in the past, it is still possible to get the other types. The best way to prevent Hepatitis B & C is to be vaccinated. Once vaccinated you are protected for a lifetime.

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 primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. It can be spread sharing needles and straws for drug use and/or other modes of blood to blood transmission, such as non-professional tattoos. Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.”

Acute Hepatitis C virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection.

Chronic Hepatitis C virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis C virus remains in a person’s body. Hepatitis C virus infection can last a lifetime and lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.

The Meigs County Health Department provides rapid Hepatitis C testing by appointment. Cost is $75 per test. We also offer the Hepatitis A and B vaccinations for all ages. We accept Medicaid, many private insurance, and managed Medicaid care plans.

Call me at 740-992-6626 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

By Sherry Hayman

For the Times-Sentinel

Sherry Hayman is a registered nurse with the Meigs County Health Department.

Sherry Hayman is a registered nurse with the Meigs County Health Department.