Assistant Managing Editor
Baby boomers, who may have contracted hepatitis C before widespread testing for it was done, are being urged to get a free test now at the Auglaize County Health Department.
The testing is recommended to those with a variety of risk factors, including previous needle use, non-licensed tattoos, blood transfusions or blood exposure, living with or having sex with someone diagnosed with hepatitis C, U.S. military veterans, history of sexually transmitted diseases and unprotected sex.
Auglaize County Nursing Supervisor Cindy Jones said hepatitis C has been at the background, behind hepatitis A and hepatitis B for a long time, but they see cases of it every day, particularly in the 60s age group.
“It can be in the body but not cause someone to feel ill or alter their lifestyle until they get older,” Jones said.
She said many of the older residents being diagnosed now underwent blood transfusions or experimented with intravenous drugs 50 years ago.
Jones said the importance of screening these residents is to prevent the virus from being spread further.
“There is treatment for it,” Jones said, explaining they want people to be aware if they have it so anyone else who may have been exposed also can be tested. “You don’t think about a blood-borne disease being spread this way, but it can be spread through sharing toothbrushes or razors, too.”
She said symptoms, which may or may not be presenting themselves, include jaundice or yellowing of the skin or eyes, fatigue, and cirrhosis, which can lead to liver failure or cancer.
Due to the time frame for when proper testing for hepatitis C was being done, the baby boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, is particularly at risk, with the test now recommended for inclusion in routine checks.
Anyone who feels they are at risk will not be turned down for the free, anonymous testing provided monthly at the Auglaize County Health Department. Results of the finger stick test are available within 20 minutes.
The tests are provided for free through a federal grant administered by the Allen County Health Department.
Hepatitis C, a liver disease, can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to having a serious lifelong impact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected.
Most of today’s infections occur from shared needles or other equipment to inject drugs, however, prior to 1992, when widespread screening of the blood supply began in the United States, hepatitis C also was commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
There is no vaccine for the virus, with the best way to prevent it being to avoid behaviors that spread it, such as injection drug use, according to the CDC reports.