The recent commercial promoting screening for hepatitis C in the Baby Boomers has scared many of my patients and their friends. Scare tactics usually work for a desired action, but is this really necessary? I would argue it is not.
Hepatitis C is a virus that is transmitted by blood exposure. It is estimated that almost 3.2 million people in the United States have the virus.
The hepatitis C virus can cause liver damage, can cause cancer, and can cause death because of the liver damage or cancer. You can also have the virus and never develop symptoms.
Risks for acquiring hepatitis C:
tattoos, blood transfusions, organ recipients, accidental needle sticks, IV drug use, and sexual intercourse
Pharmaceutical companies that have a vested interest in the drugs used to treat hepatitis C have a lot to profit with increased diagnosis. With increased screening, we get increased diagnosis which leads to increased usage of medications which leads to huge monetary gains for the pharmaceutical companies. While we do not include hepatitis testing in our routine labs we do recommend annual evaluation of liver enzymes which indirectly looks for the presence of hepatitis C.
And while I have certainly lost patients from a variety of disease processes, I have never had a patient die from hepatitis C…don’t be scared regarding this issue, talk to your doctor.
Ann Riggs, DO