Hepatitus C Death Rates Rise. 1 in 33 Baby Boomers Has Hepatitis C
Do you have a hepatitis infection? Chances are if you contracted the hepatitis C virus and were in the category of the 75%, you wouldn't know it and it would incubate in your body without causing symptoms for a long time, 15 years. If you are amongst the 25%, you would know it. You would feel fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches or fever. Though yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice) would be rare early on, your body's immune system would try to get rid of it. If there is an immune system fail then the virus becomes entrenched. For the 75%, eventually, the symptoms follow; for the 25% the inflammation increases.
Over time, the liver in people with immune system fail begin to experience the effects of the persistent inflammation caused by the immune reaction to the virus. Blood tests may show elevated levels of liver enzymes. This is a sign of liver damage. This is the first sign that the infection may be present. Patients may become easily fatigued or complain of nonspecific symptoms but as cirrhosis develops, symptoms increase and may include: weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, breast enlargement in men, a rash on the palms, difficulty with the clotting of blood and spider-like blood vessels on the skin and dark urine.
Now, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals are experiencing these symptoms but perhaps have gotten treatment too late. Because the deaths from hepatitis C are rising, now 1 in 33 baby boomers who account for two-thirds of all hepatitis C cases are especially at risk. Health officials are considering that those born between 1945 and 1965 should get a blood test for hepatitis C, because with the nature of the disease being asymptomatic (75%) these individuals may have the viral infection, but wouldn't know it.
Two well known ways that baby boomers might have contracted it would be needle sharing while injecting illegal drugs and through the blood supply. If boomers got a transfusion before the 1992 widespread testing of the blood supply began, chances are they could have contracted it through a blood transfusion. A one-time experiment with a hapless dirty needle injecting some drug 30 years ago also could have been enough. This is a problem, said Ward. "Asking someone about a risk that happened 20 to 30 years ago is a lot to ask."Continued on the next page