PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
May 18, 2012

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Get Tested for Hepatitis as part of National Hepatitis Testing Day

Tomorrow is National Hepatitis Testing Day and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to raise awareness about hepatitis, educate the public on who should be tested and remind state residents to take steps to prevent the disease.

Hepatitis refers to a group of viral infections that affect the liver. The most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C-three different contagious liver diseases caused by unrelated viruses. Hepatitis A typically occurs in an "acute" or time-limited form, while Hepatitis B and C can develop into a life-long, chronic illness. 

In New Jersey there are approximately 135,000 people infected with hepatitis C and 65,000 people infected with hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B is spread through direct contact with infected blood and body fluid including blood, semen, sweat, tears and breast milk.  Hepatitis B is highly infectious.  Hepatitis C is spread through contact with infected blood, but is rarely passed on through other body fluids.  People with hepatitis B and C can be infected and transmit the disease for years without knowing it. 

Although there are vaccines for Hepatitis A and B, no vaccine exists for Hepatitis C, new medications are on the market that are making a positive impact in treating Hepatitis C.  People with Hepatitis C should contact their health care provider to determine their risk and to discuss treatment options.   The best way to prevent Hepatitis A and B is by getting vaccinated.

The CDC today issued draft guidelines proposing that all U.S. baby boomers get a one-time test for the hepatitis C virus. CDC believes this approach will address the largely preventable consequences of the disease since therapies can now cure up to 75 percent of infections.

"Hepatitis C is a silent epidemic because many people are not aware they have the virus," said Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd.  "The CDC has developed an online tool that people can use to determine if they are at risk. I would encourage New Jersey residents to use the CDC tool and then to get tested for hepatitis if they are at risk."

The assessment tool is available at:  http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/riskassessment/

"One in 30 baby boomers-the generation born between 1945 through 1965-have been infected with hepatitis C-and most don't know it," said Dr. Arturo Brito, Deputy Commissioner of Public Health Services. "Hepatitis C causes serious liver diseases including liver cancer, which is the fastest growing cause of cancer-related deaths, and the leading cause of liver transplants in the U.S.''

The risk factors for hepatitis C include:

•·         Current or former injection drug users, even if you injected only one time or many years ago

  • Individuals with a blood clotting problem before 1987
  • Individuals who have had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
  • Individuals on long-term hemodialysis treatment
  • Individuals with an abnormal liver tests or liver disease
  • Health care and public safety workers who were exposed to blood through a needle stick or other sharp object injury
  • Individuals infected with HIV

Ways to prevent Hepatitis C include avoiding intravenous drug use, not sharing tooth brushes or razors, and using a condom during intercourse. If you have Hepatitis C, you can only donate organs or tissues to other people with Hepatitis C.   

Approximately 70% to 80% of people with Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms.  However, some people can have mild to server symptoms soon after infections including:  Fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint and jaundice (yellow color in the skin or eyes).

Information about hepatitis can be found at the DHSS website:

http://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/hepatitisa/index.shtml

http://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/hepatitisb/index.shtml

http://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/hepatitisc/index.shtml

 Also on the CDC webpage at:

http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HepAwarenessMonth.htm