Healthy Living: Hepatitis C
According to the CDC, nearly 3.2 million Americans are infected with chronic Hepatitis C virus and they don't know it. They don't look sick and they don’t feel sick. Marcie Fraser reports.
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"I didn't discover I was Hep C positive until I was in liver failure and I was hospitalized," said Shari Foster, a patient.
Shari Foster suffered from Hepatitis C for 25 years. Like many people, Shari's only symptom was fatigue.
The CDC estimates there are about 17,000 new cases of Hep C infection each year, but that number may be higher because many of those infected do not get tested.
“Hepatitis C is the largest blood borne viral disease epidemic in the country,” said infectious disease expert Dr. Brian Edlin.
Chronic Hepatitis C can cause serious liver damage, cancer, and even death. When symptoms do appear, it’s often too late.
“I said to my husband, ‘I don't feel right.’ He took me to hospital I was placed on a ventilator and in a coma for weeks and that is when I found out I had Hep C,” said Foster.
The virus is spread through infected blood.
“Blood contract can occur in medical settings, even through activities such as sharing toothbrushes and razors,” said Dr. Edlin.
“I did experiment in the sixties with drugs, but I also had a lot of dental surgeries and the sterilization process back then was not what it is today,” said Foster.
Men are more at risk than women, it’s more prevalent for substance abusers, those who are homeless, low income minorities, as well baby boomers.
“People born between years 1945 and 1965 have the highest prevalence of any age group,” said Dr. Edlin.
According to the CDC, nearly 9,000 people die of Hepatitis C related liver diseases each year. If you are diagnosed with Hep C in the early stages, you can expect to live a long, full life.
Although a part of Shari’s liver is permanently damaged, after a year of treatment she has cleared the virus.
“I was amazed at the difference of my quality of life. No one should have to go through what I went through. And it's very important that people get tested,” said Foster.