DENVER — More than 5 million Americans are living with hepatitis, including some 50,000 in Colorado. Health experts call it a silent epidemic.
In order to raise awareness, and help stop the spread of the disease, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill recommending primary care physicians offer screenings to baby boomers.
Researchers say 75 percent of people who have hepatitis aren’t even aware of it. Baby boomers (those born between 1945 and 1965) are five times more likely to contract the disease.
Hepatitis infections are spread through contact with infected blood. Those who use needles to inject recreational drugs are at an increased risk.
The disease can cause liver disease and other complications.
Dr. Bill Burman of Denver Public Health said a person can walk around with hepatitis for years without any symptoms. That’s why early detection is the key to successful treatment.
“We’re now in the midst of having medications introduced that are much easier to take so all pills are much more effective and cure rates are going to be more than 90 percent,” Burman said.
Once symptoms do set in, they are often confused with other illnesses since they include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and nausea.
A simple blood test can save your life.
For a list of local screening locations and more information about symptoms visit CDC.gov/hepatitis.