A Richland County Sheriff’s deputy’s recent exposure to Hepatitis C presents a good opportunity to catch up on this potentially deadly blood-born disease.
The good news is that up to 35 percent of people infected will spontaneously clear the virus. Better still: Within the past five years, Hepatitis C has become curable. Treatment typically requires eight to 12 weeks of oral therapy, and the virus is eradicated in more than 95 percent of patients, although even after cure they need to refrain from activities that put them at risk of reinfection.
The bad news is that an estimated 1 percent of the U.S. population has chronic infection with Hepatitis C. This infection can remain silent for decades, and in about 20 percent of cases, it may lead to severe liver disease, including cancer.
Federal guidelines recommend that everybody born between 1945 and 1965 — Baby Boomers — be screened with a blood test, as people this age have a higher prevalence of silent Hepatitis C infection. “High-risk” people of any age (past or present IV drug users, dialysis patients, etc.) also need to be screened for Hepatitis C.
Eric Brenner, M.D.
USC Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
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