Lurking Within You?

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Here is the latest news from our blog, featuring Sara Reeves, FNP, who is one of our providers here at EFFM/FIM.

Lurking Within You?

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is a contagious liver disease spread through contact with the blood of a person who has the virus. It can result in serious liver damage, including liver failure. Chronic Hep C affects an estimated 2.4 million people in the United States.

A onetime HCV screening is now recommended for all individuals who were born between 1945 and 1965. Other individuals considered high-risk who should also be tested include injectable drug users (now or even one time in the past), anyone who received blood products including transfusions, dialysis, or an organ transplant before July 1992, and those who are HIV positive.

At the beginning, HCV usually has no symptoms and usually shows itself through routine lab testing. Liver enzyme elevation is commonly the first indication that someone has HCV. There is no predicting how quickly the virus will cause permanent damage, so early detection is important. Over time, Hep C will cause scarring and cirrhosis of the liver. These conditions can encourage the development of liver cancer (about 5% of those infected). More common is the development of liver failure secondary to cirrhosis and fibrosis (scarring) that can require a liver transplant. Fifteen to twenty percent of those infected with HCV recover without treatment. The remaining 80-85% progress to chronic Hep C.

Testing for HCV is quick and easy, requiring a simple blood test. While testing liver enzymes in part of a routine metabolic panel that is usually done yearly, HCV testing is not. There is no vaccine for HCV. Many insurances cover the test at no cost.
HCV is now treatable. Treatment is 90-100% effective in curing this disease progression. Treatment at any stage will stop the progression of the disease and prevent further damage from any existing liver disease. Medications can be very expensive and not all insurance plans cover them. Medication assistance programs are common and help to make this treatment affordable for most people.
If you are unsure if you need to be tested, please discuss it with your primary care provider. If you have been tested in the past, please make sure that your current provider is aware of this and your results.

Sara Reeves, FNP
East Flagstaff Family Medicine