Health depart­ment of­fers free hep­ati­tis C test­ing

The Standard Journal - - LIFESTYLES - From press re­lease

The Polk County Health Depart­ment is of­fer­ing free, con­fi­den­tial hep­ati­tis C virus (HCV) screen­ing and test­ing. “It’s the top in­fec­tious- dis­ease killer in the na­tion, a lead­ing cause of liver can­cer, and the lead­ing cause of liver transplants ,” says health depart­ment Nurse Man­ager Malindy Ely. “Most peo­ple with hep­ati­tis C virus in­fec­tion don’t even know they are in­fected.”

“Screen­ing re­quires a sim­ple fin­ger prick. Re­sults are avail­able in about twenty min­utes. If the screen­ing is pos­i­tive, we’ll con­duct a confirmation test. If cur­rent in­fec­tion is con­firmed, we’ll give you in­for­ma­tion to help you un­der­stand what that means about your health and pro­vide re­fer­ral op­tions to health­care providers.”

Ely en­cour­ages peo­ple to call the health depart­ment at 770- 749- 2270 to sched­ule an ap­point­ment, but says “walk-ins will be ac­com­mo­dated as quickly as pos­si­ble dur- i ng reg­u­lar busi­ness hours.” The health depart­ment is lo­cated at 125 East Ware Street, Cedar­town.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) rec­om­mends that ev­ery­one born from 19451965 get tested for hep­ati­tis C at least once be­cause so- called baby boomers are five times more likely to have the dis­ease than other adults. Boomers grew up and be­came young adults be­fore the virus was iden­ti­fied in 1989, and it’s likely many were in­fected through med­i­cal pro­ce­dures and trans­fu­sions be­fore im­proved in­fec­tion-con­trol tech­niques and blood screen­ing nearly elim­i­nated those risks.

CDC also rec­om­mends HCV test­ing for in­di­vid­u­als cur­rently in­ject­ing drugs and any­one who ever in­jected drugs, even those who in­jected once or a few times many years ago. The num­ber of HCV in­fec­tions has nearly tripled in the United States in the last five years, par­tic­u­larly among peo­ple in their 20s, in large part due to the re­cent ex­plo­sive in­crease in the mis­use of opi­oids and heroin.

Other high-risk in­di­vid­u­als for whom test­ing is rec­om­mended in­clude those who re­ceived clot­ting fac­tor con­cen­trates be­fore 1987, who were ever on long-term hemodial­y­sis, or who have HIV in­fec­tion. Any­one can take a sim­ple five-minute Hep­ati­tis Risk As­sess­ment de­vel­oped by the CDC and get a per­son­al­ized re­port to de­ter­mine if you should be tested for vi­ral hep­ati­tis, in­clud­ing hep­ati­tis C. The risk as­sess­ment may be found at www. cdc. gov/ hep­ati­tis/riskassess­ment.

The most com­mon types are hep­ati­tis A, B and C. While hep­ati­tis A is a short- term in­fec­tion, hep­ati­tis B and C have the po­ten­tial to de­velop into chronic (life­long) in­fec­tions and are a ma­jor cause of liver can­cer and liver dis­ease. Vi­ral hep­ati­tis can be pre­vented by re­ceiv­ing vac­ci­na­tions for hep­ati­tis A, hep­ati­tis B and re­duc­ing risky be­hav­iors that may put you at risk for hep­ati­tis C. Here are a few key facts to re­mem­ber:

Hep­ati­tis A vac­ci­na­tion is given to chil­dren as young as 12 months, and hep­ati­tis B vac­cine is ad­min­is­tered at all ages, from birth to adult­hood.

There is no vac­cine avail­able for hep­ati­tis C; how­ever, it can be pre­vented by avoid­ing blood con­tact, such as from shar­ing nee­dles or sy­ringes or by shar­ing per­sonal items like ra­zors, glu­cose mon­i­tors, nail clip­pers or tooth­brushes.

Polk County Health Depart­ment hours are Mon­day — Wed­nes­day 8 am to 5 pm, Thurs­day 8 am to 6:30 pm, and Fri­day 8 am to 2 pm. En­vi­ron­men­tal Health of­fice hours are Mon­day — Thurs­day 8 am to 5 pm and Fri­day 8 am to 2 pm.

Con­tact the Polk County Health Depart­ment, 125 East Ware Street, Cedar­town, at 770- 7492270; the En­vi­ron­men­tal Health of­fice at 770-7492253, or v is itwww.nwg apub­lic health. org/ coun­ties/ polk

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