December 18th, 2012
It’s thought that an estimated 3.2 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C; a serious disease that, if left untreated, can result in liver damage, liver cancer and even death.
In the US, the veteran community is disproportionately affected by chronic hep C. In fact, it’s thought that veterans are twice as likely to be infected with the virus as the general population. This increased likelihood of infection is due to high risk factors such as exposure to infected blood during combat.
A recent report revealed that, of the 6 million veterans receiving care from the Veterans’ Affairs (VA) health care system in 2010, around 165,000 had evidence of chronic hep C. Many of those infected already had evidence of cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, and even more of those infected will go on to develop cirrhosis over a span of 20 to 30 years. Most of those being treated in the VA health care system in recent years were infected during the Vietnam War era between 1964 and 1975.
US authorities take the issue of hep C seriously: the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a recommendation for all baby boomers to be tested for the disease.
Whether you’re a veteran or not, if you feel that you could be at risk of hep C, talk to your doctor. Click here to learn more about risk factors.
Photo by gwilmore