What you should know about Hep C

Up to 5.3 million Americans have chronic Hepatitis C (HCV) infection according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

About 75% of the infected population are unaware that they have HCV because often there are no symptoms. Left untreated, HCV can cause serious liver damage and even liver cancer. The good news is that HCV rapid testing is quick and easy and will screen for a positive or negative antibody within 30 minutes. A quick call to Canyonlands Healthcare can connect you to a Screening Program in the Page community.

The CDC recommends a one-time HCV testing of all adults ages 18 and older and during every pregnancy. HCV is caused by a virus and is spread when someone encounters blood from an infected person. This can happen through sharing needles, razors, toothbrushes, and intranasal equipment with an infected person. The spread is also common in people who have received unprofessional tattoos, sexual contact with an infected person, blood transfusion prior to 1992, and those who received dental work prior to the development of cleaning guidelines.

Heather Crane, the family nurse practitioner, and the director of the HCV Program for Canyonlands Healthcare, reports that the program has successfully screened and treated many patients who had no previous knowledge of their positive status until Canyonlands Healthcare began an educational awareness and screening effort in the communities they serve.

“Our quick and easy HCV rapid test will screen for an antibody within 30 minutes,” Crane said. “All positive results are reviewed through collaboration with a liver expert, Dr. Manch.”

The most common way HCV is transmitted today is through needle sharing for drug use. When people become addicted to prescription opiates and then lose access to those drugs, they may turn to heroin, and sharing needles for heroin use is linked to HCV infection. If you have a history of drug use, that could pose a risk of infection.

There is no vaccine for HCV, but treatments can cure most people in eight to 12 weeks. Oral antiviral medications are extremely good at attacking the virus and preventing it from multiplying with no or very few side effects.

For more information, contact Samantha Gonzales, Hepatitis C Coordinator at Canyonlands Healthcare at 928-428-1500 ext. 3316.


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