I have been meaning to write this article about hepatitis C for at least a year now. I was going to write a technical article about this silent epidemic, but now I think a more personal story is best.
In April of 2000 my husband was diagnosed with the hepatitis C virus. I thought this was not a problem. Surely there was a vaccine and cure for this. I had heard of hepatitis and thought it was what you got from food in restaurants that were not clean or visits to Third World countries.
Well, that may be so for hepatitis A but not for B and C. I am going to talk about hepatitis C because that is what I have been involved with. Hepatitis B is another serious virus; however, there is a vaccine for hep B.
Hepatitis C (HCV) is called the silent epidemic because you can have the virus and not know it. It can take decades before any symptoms show up. By then a person can have end-stage liver disease, as my husband had. HCV was discovered in 1989. This makes it a newly discovered disease.
Screening tests only began in 1990 after millions of people were already infected. Before this time it was impossible to detect HCV in donated blood. Therefore, the nation’s blood supply was contaminated. If you had a blood transfusion before 1990 you are at risk for HCV.
I believe it is very important for anyone that had a blood transfusion before this time to be tested. I also believe physicians should as a matter of course test their patients for this virus.
HCV can be transmitted by blood transfusions, intravenous drug use, needle sticks as a health worker may get treating a patient, tatooing and very rarely from sexual contact.
About 4 million Americans have HCV. The number of patients being diagnosed is increasing every minute. The number of Americans infected with HCV is three times that of HIV/AIDS, more than five times that of Parkinson’s disease and more than 10 times that number of Americans with multiple sclerosis.
In Colorado, one in every 350 people have HCV.
I am not writing all these statistics to scare you. I am writing this to try and raise the awareness of this disease. My husband was lucky. On Dec. 31, 2002, he received a new liver. It saved his life.
Not everyone with HCV will get liver disease. It varies from person to person. The point is to be checked and find out. There is no cure for HCV. Researchers are working very hard to find one. There is a treatment that is being used today that can clear the virus, unfortunately only in about 50 percent of patients. This is changing every day.
Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplantation. Livers for transplant are only made available through the act of organ donation. Organ donation is one of the highest forms of caring and giving. Please, please, consider this when you renew or get your driver’s license. And make it known to your family and friends that you would like to be an organ donor. It is the ultimate gift. Because of a very special donor my husband is alive today.
I am writing this article with the help of a book called “Living with Hepatitis C, A Survivors’ Guide” by Dr. Gregory T. Everson and Hedy Weinberg. I recommend this book as the best book available for information and help.
Dr. Everson is the director of hepatology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. He is also my husband’s doctor. University Hospital is, in my opinion, the best facility there is for help with HCV and transplantation. Their program is nothing short of miraculous, and the aftercare is excellent. Dr. Gerard Tomasso from the Glenwood Medical Associates is another great help and support locally.
Several Web sites are also informative:
For organ donation information: http://www.unos.org
” Michelle McCurdy is a potter in Battlement Mesa. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
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