PROVIDENCE - In recognition of National Hepatitis C Testing Day on Sunday, May 19, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) encourages all Rhode Islanders born between 1945 and 1965 to be tested for Hepatitis C at least once, or more often if they have known risk factors. Baby Boomers are five times more likely than others to be infected with Hepatitis C, and people with Hepatitis C often have no symptoms.
"We estimate that 11,000 Rhode Islanders of all ages are infected with the Hepatitis C virus," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Many of these people don't know they are infected. That's why being tested for Hepatitis C is critical to ensuring the good health of Rhode Islanders as they grow older."
Hepatitis C is treatable with medication if it is caught early enough. Testing is crucial because many of those infected with the virus can live for decades without feeling sick. Untreated Hepatitis C has been linked to liver cancer and other liver disease.
Baby Boomers are at particular risk because many are believed to have become infected in the 1970s and 1980s, when rates of Hepatitis C were highest. Some may have become infected from contaminated blood and blood products before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992 and universal precautions for healthcare workers were adopted. Others might have become infected with the virus through injecting drugs or through sexual activity.
"I encourage all Rhode Islanders to be tested," said Dr. Fine. "A simple blood test will help protect you from complications of a virus that is often treatable."
For help finding testing services in Rhode Island, regardless of income or insurance, visit www.health.ri.gov/testforhep or call (401) 222-5960.
For Spanish-language resources, visit http:/health.ri.gov/pruebasdehepatitis
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