May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. In the United States, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are the most common types of infectious hepatitis. While each can produce similar symptoms, they do not spread or affect the liver the same. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes Hepatitis C as a silent epidemic because most people with Hepatitis C do not know they are infected.

Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County’s Medical Director, Michael Dohn explains, “Hepatitis A does not cause a long-term infection, although it can make people very sick. Hepatitis B and C can become chronic, lifelong infections and lead to serious health problems. That is why getting tested is
important.”

Hepatitis A (HAV) is usually transmitted person-to-person by the fecal-oral route or through consumption of contaminated food or water. The best way to prevent HAV is by getting vaccinated.

Hepatitis B (HBV) is transmitted when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment; or from mother to baby at birth. Chronic HBV can lead to serious health issues, like cirrhosis or liver cancer. The best way to prevent HBV is by getting vaccinated.

Hepatitis C (HCV) is mostly transmitted by blood, though also transmitted by unprotected sexual contact. An estimated 2.4 million people are living with HCV in the United States, and as of July 2, 2019, 978 in Montgomery County. Still many people do not know they are infected. While anyone can get Hepatitis C, the CDC recommends that “Baby Boomers”, (individuals born between 1945-1965) get tested, since 3 in 4 adults infected with Hepatitis C were born during that time frame. 

People who are at increased risk for having hepatitis C, include:

  • Current or former injection drug users, including those who injected only once many years ago.
  • Recipients of clotting factor concentrates made before 1987, when less advanced methods for manufacturing those products were used.
  • Recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants prior to July 1992, before better testing of blood donors became available.
  • Hemodialysis patients.
  • People with known exposures to the HCV, such as:
    • Health care workers after needle sticks involving blood from someone who is infected with the HCV.
    • Recipients of blood or organs from a donor who tested positive for the HCV.
  • People with HIV infection.
  • Children born to mothers infected with the hepatitis C virus.
  • People who are incarcerated.
  • People who use intranasal drugs.
  • People who received body piercing or tattoos done with non-sterile instruments.

People can become infected with the hepatitis C virus during activities such as:

  • Sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to prepare or inject drugs.
  • Needlestick injuries in health care settings.
  • Being born to a mother who has hepatitis C.
  • Less commonly, a person can also get hepatitis C virus through:

o Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another person’s blood,
such as razors or toothbrushes.

o Having sexual contact with a person infected with the hepatitis C virus.

o Getting a tattoo or body piercing in an unregulated setting.

  • Injected street drugs with a needle
  • Snorted street drugs
  • Received blood or other blood products before July 1992
  • Been exposed to another person’s blood through a contaminated needle
  • Lived with someone who is infected with Hepatitis C
  • Had sex with someone who has Hepatitis C
  • Been treated by a doctor for a sexually transmitted infection
  • Had a non-professional tattoo

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Public Health is still committed to providing education and
Hepatitis C testing. Please call 937-225-5700 for more information and to schedule an appointment.

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