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July 28: World Hepatitis Awareness Day

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. There are five different hepatitis viruses, hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. All of these viruses cause short term, or acute infection. However the hepatitis B, C and D viruses can also cause long-term infection, called chronic hepatitis, which can lead to life-threatening complications such as cirrhosis (liver scarring), liver failure, and liver cancer. Hepatitis C is the most common chronic blood borne infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 3.2 million people in the US are living hepatitis C infection. The hepatitis C virus is a leading cause of liver cancer and each year about 15,000 deaths are caused by hepatitis C associated liver cancer or end stage liver disease.

In New York State, about 200,000 people are living with hepatitis C, but the state Department of Health (DOH) estimates that 75% - or 150,000 people - do not know their status. Hepatitis C related deaths now exceed HIV-related deaths among New Yorkers, even though a majority of people with hepatitis C can be cured if they are diagnosed early enough and have access to care.

To increase the number of New Yorkers that know their hepatitis C status, on October 23, 2013 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed a law that requires every individual born between 1945 and 1965 receiving inpatient hospital care or primary care be screened for hepatitis C. The CDC estimates that 75% of those living with hepatitis C are "baby boomers" born between those years.

Detecting the disease early is a key to successfully fighting it.

For further reading, the report - Aging and Hepatitis C(External Link) - takes a comprehensive look at the disease and how it affects the aging population.

Did You Know?

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