Study shows Oklahoma’s number of people suffering from Hepatitis C is double the national prevalence rate

Study shows Oklahoma’s number of people suffering from Hepatitis C is double the national prevalence rate

OK (KSWO)- An estimated 94,200 Oklahomans living with Hepatitis C virus infection.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is encouraging residents to be tested for the virus as Oklahoma had the highest estimated prevalence in the nation at 3.34 percent, while the national prevalence was 1.67 percent. A total of 523 Oklahomans died due to Hepatitis C from 1999-2012, ranking our state among the highest for Hepatitis C mortality.

Hepatitis C is a virus which can cause serious liver disease. Symptoms include fever, nausea, abdominal pain, or jaundice. Approximately 75 to 85 percent of people who are infected with the virus will develop a chronic condition which can lead to liver problems, including cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer or death.

The virus is spread from exposure to an infected person's blood, sharing needles or other injection drug equipment, blood transfusions and organ transplants.

The only way to know if a person has Hepatitis C is to obtain a blood test. The OSDH recommends testing for the following persons:

  • Anyone born from 1945 through 1965.
  • Anyone who has injected drugs, even just once or many years ago.
  • Anyone with certain medical conditions, such as chronic liver disease and HIV or AIDS.
  • Anyone who has received donated blood or organs before 1992.
  • Anyone with abnormal liver tests or liver disease.
  • Anyone who has been exposed to the blood from a person who has Hepatitis C.
  • Anyone on hemodialysis.
  • Anyone born to a mother with Hepatitis C.

Although there is no vaccine to prevent the virus, there are ways to avoid becoming infected. These include:

  • Avoid sharing or reusing needles, syringes or any other equipment to prepare and inject drugs, steroids, hormones or other substances.
  • Do not use personal items which may have come into contact with an infected person’s blood, even in amounts too small to see, such as razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes or glucose monitors.
  • Do not get tattoos or body piercings from an unlicensed facility or in an informal setting.

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