Your Healthy Family: Hepatitis Awareness - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Your Healthy Family: Hepatitis Awareness

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Thursday May 19th is National Hepatitis Testing day and if you haven’t been tested, there is a big reason you should consider it.  According to the CDC, Hepatitis C is now the deadliest infectious disease in the U.S. and many of those who have hepatitis, don't know it.

Dr. Paul Pinto with Peak Gastroenterology in Colorado Springs says "It's a viral infection, it’s extremely common and it's been around for thousands of years.  Currently, the most common way people get Hepatitis by exposure to the blood of another human being.  There are no carriers, no animals, you can't get it from a toilet seat.  You have to get it from the blood of a human being.".

Dr. Pinto explains that Hepatitis used to be a very difficult infection to treat.  "5 To 10 years ago the treatment was an injection once a week and pills twice a day with many side effects, and only a 40% cure rate.  Most individuals had to take continue treatment for almost a year.  The symptoms were so bad that we would frequently tell patients to think of this like cancer chemotherapy, you have to withstand it in order to get a cure and side effects were things like extreme headache, fatigue, flu like symptoms, and then serious problems in some people with severe anemia, heart problems lung problems, diarrhea nausea vomiting.”

Today treatment is much quicker.  "Now it takes between 8 and 24 weeks, of 1 to 3 pills a day, with minimal side effects in most individuals.  I have some people say ‘i don't even know I'm on it’, it feels like they are taking a supplement," says Dr. Pinto.

Far more important is the fact that the new drugs are highly effective says Dr. Pinto, "I have the privilege of now saying to people that I can cure them in more than 90% of cases regardless of previous treatment, severity of disease or subtype of infection.  90% and that's not remission that's not making it go dormant.  It’s cured, you can't find the virus if you do a test later on, it's gone."

The biggest issue regarding Hepatitis remains people even knowing they have it.  "It is really a silent disease, most symptoms are nonspecific fatigue perhaps a little discomfort over your liver, up here on the right side but most people don't know it and that is why these screening recommendations have come out that say anybody any us born individual born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested regardless of symptoms." Says Dr. Pinto.

General recommendations are that you should also be tested for hepatitis if:

-You have ever been exposed to blood or blood products

-You have ever injected yourself with drugs, even once

-You have ever been incarcerated

-You have received an organ transplant

-You are a healthcare worker

-You have had a sexual partner with any of the above risk factors

If you have any other questions about hepatitis and if you should be tested or not, follow up with your health-care provider.  You can also take a free and anonymous screening on the CDC’s website.  http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/riskassessment/index.htm

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