Many hepatitis C patients not getting key follow-up testing
According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only half of Americans who have had hepatitis C get follow-up testing showing whether or not they are still infected.
“Follow-up testing for a disease like hepatitis C is crucial,” says Dr. Jennifer DeBruler, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “A simple blood test can show whether or not the virus is still in someone’s system, and this may help to prevent severe liver damage or even liver cancer later on.”
Nearly 3 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, and as many as 75 percent don’t even know they’re infected, according to the CDC study. This is just one of the reasons that make hepatitis C so dangerous, the CDC said.
Hepatitis C is a contagious disease that attacks the liver, and can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a chronic illness that can result in serious liver damage. Further, hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer. Hepatitis C is contagious, and is commonly spread through sharing needles or, less frequently, through sexual contact or coming into contact with an infected person’s blood via razor blades or other personal items. Even more alarming, approximately 70–80 percent of people with acute hepatitis C do not have any symptoms, according to the CDC.
There are no vaccines for the disease or medications used to treat acute hepatitis C as of yet, the CDC said.
Because of the number of Americans who are not getting follow-up testing, the CDC is issuing updated protocols for health care providers on testing for the disease.
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