What you need to know about Hepatitis C

For this week's Facebook Story of the Week, you voted to know more about Hepatitis C and what it does to your body.

Hepatitis C is a virus that is most commonly spread by blood-to-blood contact or contracted by contaminated medical equipment. Age and gender do not predispose an individual to Hepatitis C, but there are groups where it is more common.

"We tend to find it more among the drug user community who share needles and that type of behavior," said Lynelle Diers, Clinical Director of Wapello County Public Health. "But we also have a group of individuals that if you had received blood transfusions up until about 1990, some people have actually been contracting and testing positive for Hepatitis C through those blood products."

After 1990, the medical community began actively testing for Hepatitis C, which is why the Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) is urging Baby Boomers to be tested for the Hepatitis C virus. Unlike A and B, there is no vaccine or treatment for Hepatitis C. If caught in the acute phase, you can only soften the severity of the symptoms.

"The symptoms for Hepatitis C are similar to the others, flu-like-type symptoms," Diers said. "The problem, once you get hepatitis, you really can't cure it, you have it. [Hepatitis C] can predispose you to cancer of the liver, cirrhosis of the liver. An individual that has it has to be very, very careful about alcohol consumption and also medications that they take because the liver is responsible for detoxifying a lot of the prescription medications that are prescribed for individuals and one beer for someone that has inflammation of the liver can be equivalent to just drinking six beers."

About a decade ago, Hepatitis C showed up right here in Wapello County.

"Something interesting, when Wapello County had the Hepatitis A outbreak in 1999/2000, at the same time when our CDC physicians were here working with us to do the follow-us, they found we also were having a Hepatitis C outbreak," Diers said. "They were just amazed that individuals that tested positive for A also had C and at that time, it was identified it was in our drug user community at that time because our culprit was the crystal meth in the ice form and they were doing it in the vats full of ice and sticking their hands in, not washing their hands, so therefore, it was being passed from person to person."

Diers said of the hepatitis viruses, A and B are the most well-known, while many people are not aware of C-G.