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West Virginia sees high rate of Hepatitis C cases

 

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — According to Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department officials, there have been 274 reported acute and chronic Hepatitis C cases in the area covered by the department from Jan. 1-Nov. 14 of this year.

“Those cases are in the six counties covered by the department. It is important to note that these are only the reported cases and may not accurately indicate the disease burden,” said Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department regional epidemiologist Frances Nicholson.

“We believe there are cases of Hep C from needle sharing for example that have not been reported as the individuals have not been tested,” Nicholson said. Epidemiologists study the incidence, distribution and control of diseases in a community.

Hepatitis C is a disease which causes inflammation of the liver.

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ state disease surveillance statistics, the Acute Hepatitis C incident rate for the state is much higher than the national average. In 2013 West Virginia’s incident rate was approximately 3 per 100,000, while the natural average was about 0.7 per 100,000. This means for every 100,000 citizens the state averaged 3 patients with Acute Hepatitis.

Nicholson said the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department has testing available for Hep C. For more information on the tests and any fees, contact the health department at 211 Sixth St., Parkersburg, or call 304-485-7374.

Once patients test positive for Hep C, they are referred to a physician, a specialist, Nicholson said.

“We are seeing cases, and I suspect there are a lot more undiagnosed individuals because sometimes they may never have symptoms, so they never seek testing or treatment,” she said.

Hepatitis C is caused by the Hepatitis C virus. Symptoms of Acute Hepatitis include abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, jaundice (or yellowing of the eyes or skin), and anorexia. Not everyone experiences acute symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75-85 percent of Hepatitis C infections will become chronic. Chronic means the disease will last a long time, possibly a lifetime. Chronic Hepatitis C can lead to additional health complications such as cirrhosis.

According to health officials, Hepatitis C can be transmitted by the contact of blood from an infected individual. Sharing needles, syringes or other equipment to inject street drugs is the more common transmission of Hepatitis C in the United States.

Other less common ways of transmitting Hepatitis C include needle-stick injuries in health care settings, sexual contact with a Hepatitis C individual, birth from a mother that has Hepatitis C, and people that received blood, blood products and organs prior to 1992. After 1992 blood screening for Hepatitis C became available.

Testing for Hepatitis C is done by a blood test.

If a person is diagnosed for Hepatitis C, treatment may include antiviral medications and regular monitoring of the disease, typically from a blood test. At times the Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccine may be recommended to avoid the possibility of getting an additional virus that attacks the liver, health officials said.

Health officials advise to protect against getting Hepatitis C do not inject drugs, do not share drug injecting equipment, wear gloves if in contact with someone else’s blood, do not share razors or other personal hygiene tools, use condoms during sexual activity, and be sure tattoos and body piercings are done under sterile and professional conditions.

For more information on the local health department and its services and fees call the health department at 304-485-7374, or check the department website at movhd.com. The six counties covered by the health department are Wood, Calhoun, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane and Wirt.

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