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Hepatitis C in the African American Community

A black familyHepatitis C is one of several health issues affecting the African American community. Currently, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C and the best way to prevent infection is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the virus.

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. This can happen by getting a needlestick injury in a healthcare setting, from receiving blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992, being born to a mother who has Hepatitis C, and sharing equipment for injecting drugs. Some people don’t know how they got infected.

An estimated 3.2 million persons are living with chronic Hepatitis C in the United States and most of them don’t know it. More than 75% of adults with Hepatitis C are baby boomers, i.e., born from 1945 through 1965. It is important to note that within the African American community, chronic liver disease, often Hepatitis C-related, is a leading cause of death among persons aged 45-64 years. As well, African Americans have a substantially higher rate of chronic Hepatitis C infection than Caucasians and other ethnic groups.

Testing is critical to identify this often silent disease. To help increase testing, CDC recommends anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, who was born from 1945-1965 (baby boomers) get tested for Hepatitis C. Fortunately, a simple blood test can determine if a person has ever been exposed to the virus.  

Remember that early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer. Find out if you should talk to your doctor about Hepatitis C testing by taking an online risk assessment. If you are a baby boomer, find out why baby boomers should get tested [PDF - 1 page].

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