Hepatitis is a serious problem, warns the state of Tennessee

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Sometimes there are no symptoms of hepatitis in the first weeks after infection -- the acute phase. But when they happen, the symptoms of types A, B, and C may include fatigue, nausea, poor appetite, belly pain, a mild fever, or yellow skin or eyes (jaundice).

Hepatitis C is a deadly but treatable disease; that's why the Tennessee Department of Health is sharing a reminder about the importance of getting tested. May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, a perfect time to know your status and seek treatment if needed.

"There are three types of viral hepatitis: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C; each are transmitted uniquely and cause separate illnesses," said Carolyn Wester, MD, MPH, TDH Medical Director, HIV/STD/Viral Hepatitis. "Vaccines are available to prevent against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B infection. There is currently no vaccine to prevent against Hepatitis C so it's very important to find out if you're at risk."

Test can be conducted if you feel like you may have Hepatitis. Locally, you should contact the Rutherford County Health Department. The main office is in Murfreesboro at 100 West Burton Street. The phone number is (615) 898-7880.

Millions of people unknowingly are infected with hepatitis C or other variants of the disease as a result of exposure, even decades ago. The Centers for Disease Control recommends all individuals born from 1945 through 1965 be tested for Hepatitis C infection once. Individuals of any age should be tested for Hepatitis C if they have any additional risk factors.

The more common forms of viral hepatitis in the U.S. include:

Hepatitis A: Usually caused by the inadvertent ingestion of fecal matter from close contact with others or from contaminated food or drinks. It does not cause chronic infection and the hepatitis A vaccination can prevent you from getting it.

Hepatitis B: Usually caused by infected blood, semen or other body fluids resulting from unprotected sex; sharing contaminated needles or straws to snort drugs; or passed on from a mother to her newborn. Illness can range from short and mild to serious and long-term. It can lead to liver disease or liver cancer. Hepatitis B vaccination can prevent you from getting it.

Hepatitis C: Usually caused by contact with blood of an infected person, often through sharing of contaminated needles or straws to snort drugs; unsanitary piercing or tattooing equipment; or blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992. It can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.


Viral Hepatitis B and C can live for many years, even decades, in the body without causing any symptoms. They may destroy the liver gradually, with no major symptoms, and for many individuals the diagnosis comes too late. The vast majority of people with hepatitis C can now be cured with a 12-week regimen of oral medications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a free, five-minute online assessment that can tell you if you are at risk. To take the simple test, go to
www.cdc.gov/HEPATITIS/riskassessment.

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