May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and May 19, 2018 is National Hepatitis Testing Day, an opportunity to shed light on this hidden epidemic by raising awareness of viral hepatitis and encouraging priority populations to get tested. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those at highest risk for viral hepatitis are: baby boomers (those born between 1945 and 1965); men who have sex with men; Asian and Pacific Islanders; those with HIV/AIDS; and injection drug users.
There are more than three types of Hepatitis. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are each caused by a different virus and is spread in different ways. Hepatitis A can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can become life-long chronic infections. However, there are vaccines that prevent against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.
In the U.S, an estimated 2.7 to 3.9 million people are living with chronic HCV infection. Statewide, an estimated 200,000 people are living with HCV infection. It is estimated that up to 75% of persons living with HCV do not know their status. According to the 2016 Communicable Disease Annual Reports from the New York State Department of Health, there were 562 Hepatitis C infections reported in Nassau County and 891 Hepatitis C infections in Suffolk County.