Over 2 million Americans have Hepatitis C. Are you one of them?
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. Debra Oliver, APN, and coordinator for Project ACCESS, talks about Hepatitis C with AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer JoAnn Whetsell.
Q1: What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by different viruses which we call Hepatitis A, B, and C. Hepatitis A usually goes away on its own. Hepatitis B can be controlled with medicine. Hepatitis C is curable with medications. If you don’t treat it, you have an increased risk of damage to the liver (cirrhosis) and even liver cancer.
Q2: What do you think the general public needs to know about Hepatitis C?
Many people think the disease just affects Baby Boomers, and that’s not true. There are other risk factors and everyone should be tested at least once a year. It’s so easy to test for and so treatable now.
The current medications are much safer, easier to take, and do not involve injections. There are very few side effects of these new medications. Even for those who already have liver damage, the liver has some power to regenerate. Cirrhosis (scarring) can be improved. Diabetic control often becomes more manageable. HIV becomes easier to control if Hep C is treated.
Q3. What do you think patients need to know when diagnosed?
It is very easy to treat and Hepatitis C is curable. The medication is much better and generally has to be taken once per day for 8-12 weeks. For most people it’s a fairly simple process to get tested, treated and cured. But there are things they need to do. Alcohol use plays a significant role in scarring of the liver and they should always talk to their doctor about starting any over the counter medications, herbs, supplements or vitamins.
Q4: What is special about Henry J. Austin Health Center’s treatment program?
Our team approach allows us to keep a close eye on patients and the treatment process. Our program includes social workers, nurses, nurse practitioner, infectious disease physician and a behavioral health consultant. We also work closely with your primary care provider throughout treatment and when treatment is completed for follow-up care.
Q5: What are patients most often surprised by when they complete treatment?
How easy it is! Even though there’s a lot of information out there, sometimes it’s wrong and people are afraid to be treated.
If you are interested in testing or treatment for Hepatitis C at Henry J. Austin Health Center, please call us at 609-278-5900 or visit https://bit.ly/HJAappointment to make an appointment with one of our primary care providers. Please note that you must have medical insurance.