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Hepatitis C Disproportionately Affects the African American Community


February is Black History Month, a time to commemorate the contributions that African-Americans have made to American history.  This month also presents an opportunity to educate the public and health professionals about serious health problems disproportionately affecting the African American community, including the Hepatitis C virus. 

Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus.  The virus can make some people very sick, and over time can cause serious health problems, including liver damage and even liver cancer.  Currently, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, but the good news is that new treatments are available that can offer a cure for many people. 

Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. In the past, many people became infected with the Hepatitis C virus from receiving a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, which is when widespread screening virtually eliminated the hepatitis C virus from the blood supply.  Today, most people become infected with the virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs, getting a stuck with a needle  or sharp object from an infected person or being born to a mother who has Hepatitis C.

People born from 1945 to 1965 or baby boomers are five times more likely to have hepatitis C.  Unfortunately, African Americans born during these years have twice the rates as other baby boomers. 

Regardless of race or ethnicity, CDC recommends anyone who was born from 1945-1965 get tested for Hepatitis C.   Unfortunately, too few people get this simple blood test.  If detected early, new treatments are available that can cure this disease!  If a person is not a baby boomer, but may be at risk for Hepatitis C, they should talk to their doctor or take CDC’s viral hepatitis risk assessment.

 

Tools and Resources:

General Information about Hepatitis C [PDF - 2 pages]
Why Baby Boomers Should Get Tested [PDF - 2 pages]
Online Risk Assessment
CDC Recommendations for the Identification of Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection among Persons Born During 1945–1965
CDCs Hepatitis C Testing Recommendations

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