Why is Hepatitis C under reported, under estimated, under diagnosed and under treated??
One major reason that Hepatitis C is under diagnosed and under reported is that Hepatitis C is often asymptomatic. That means that many people don't feel at all ill, even after years of Hepatitis C infection. If symptoms do appear, they are often very mild and general complaints, like tiredness or a bit of nausea. These symptoms can easily be attributed to lack or sleep, mild flu, or just getting older. Unfortunately, this lack of symptoms doesn't mean Hepatitis C is harmelss. Infection may be damaging the liver long before any symptoms emerge. Once they do emerge, the liver may be damaged beyond repair.
Many experts believe that only about one fourth (25 percent) of those infected with Hepatitis C know they have the virus.
For example, many people of the Baby Boom generation have Hepatitis C and don't know it. Because the liver is a "non-complaining" organ, these people don't know they have a serious infection. Many Boomers contracted the disease through blood transfusions or other medical procedures before the virus was identified, and the blood supply and other medical products were protected in the early 1990s. Some were infected through youthful experimentation with drugs. Other possible routes of infection are described on our website's Hepatitis C Facts and Statistics page, above.
Another reason that Hepatitis C is under estimated, under diagnosed and under treated is that the test for the Hepatitis C virus IS NOT a part of a routine physical exam or regular blood tests. By law, your doctor has to ask if you want a test for HIV/AIDS...but that's not true for Hepatitis C. You have to ask for a blood test to determine whether you have been infected with Hepatitis C.
Finally, a lot of people have been infected with Hepatitis C through the use of illegal, "street" drugs. Some of these people are addicts, some are incarcerated, and some are homeless. These people are marginalized in our society and many feel powerless to demand testing and care...and to be counted.
Whatever your situation, if you think you could have Hepatitis C, ask your doctor...or go to a clinic...for a test to learn your status. Hepatitis C can be cured. Treatment is better than ever. But you can only be treated and cured if you know your status. Get tested now!