Published: Wednesday, August 8,
Silent viruses often go undetected – are you at risk?
YOUR HEALTH | By Ashley Stewart, Herald
In the shadow of World Hepatitis Day, Snohomish County
Health officials urge that testing is important for those who have been exposed
to the symptomless virus.
Hepatitis B and C are spread by contact with
bodily fluid and, if left untreated, can cause cirrhosis, or scarring, of the
liver. Liver cirrhosis can lead to bleeding, build up of fluid in the abdominal
cavity, coma, liver cancer or failure and death. In cases of chronic hepatitis
B, liver cancer can develop before cirrhosis forms.
Hepatitis B and C are
called “silent” viruses because they are generally symptomless. The World
Hepatitis Alliance estimates that, worldwide, one in 12 people live with
hepatitis B or C. In Snohomish County, about 680 cases of chronic hepatitis C
and 110 cases of chronic hepatitis B are reported every year. Without testing,
both forms of the virus can go undetected.
The alliance spearheaded World
Hepatitis Day to raise global awareness on July 28.
“Get tested if you've
ever been at risk,” said Suzanne Pate, spokeswoman for the Snohomish Health
District. “This applies to an awful lot of people who remember the 'summer of
At the end of last month, the Snohomish Health District honored
World Hepatitis Day by displaying information in the atrium of the Rucker
Building and on “The Takeaway” radio program on 90.7 FM.
continues to provide vaccines for hepatitis A and B and a hepatitis C test at no
charge for people who have been exposed.
Those at risk include people
• received transplants, transfusion or other blood products before
• received clotting factor for hemophilia or organ transplants
• were born to hepatitis C virus-infected women
used illegal drugs
• received body tattoos or piercings with unsterilized
• have had sexual contact with an infected person or have a
history of sexually transmitted disease
• are men who have had sexual
contact with men
“Testing for hepatitis C is really simple. It's a blood
drop test; they just (puncture) the finger to get a drop of blood,” Pate
Patients who indicate a history of injecting drugs will receive
testing for other types of hepatitis as well.
What to do
an appointment with the Snohomish Health District at 425-339-8620. For
information about the district's awareness program, visit www.snohd.org/Shd_CD/ViralHepatitis.aspx.
General hepatitis information is available
online at www.worldhepatitisalliance.org and www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/index.htm.
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