Local Organization Calls For Hepatitis C Tests

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Hepatitis C Alliance made a call Wednesday for people to get a blood test for Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is the most common cause of liver cancer. More than 20 percent of Missourians have the disease and are in danger of hepatitis C-related diseases, based on the results of a test conducted in 40 rural health departments on more than 1,700 people last year. Bruce Burkett, executive director of the Missouri Hepatitis C Alliance, said most of the patients probably won't show symptoms for a long time, but the result will still be fatal.

Burkett said, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 3.9 million to 5 million Americans have hepatitis C in their blood. And 75 percent of those people are not aware of their disease.

Those born in the 1960s and 1970s are the most vurnerable age group in terms of hepatitis C infection. Burkett suggested those people get tested, as well as all people aged 40 and older.

"There are two things you should do if the result is positive," Burkett said.

The first thing is to stop drinking any alcohol, which is like "throwing gasoline on the fire when you have liver disease." And the other thing is to work to stop spreading the disease, which can live outside the body on any dry surface for four days.

There are two main types of tests for hepatitis C. One is a simple blood test to detect the virus. The other is a liver biopsy which is to test a sample of liver tissue and to provide specific information about liver damage. You can contact your healthcare provider to get the test and possible treatments to reduce the amount of hepatitis C virus in the blood. Treatment may last from 24 to 48 weeks, depending on the type of hepatitis C.