Hepatitis means that there is inflammation of the liver, and usually caused by one of several kinds of viruses, the most common being Hepatitis A, B, and C. People infected with viral hepatitis often experience very mild symptoms for a few months, but Hepatitis B and C can progress to a chronic illness. Many people aren’t aware they’re infected and can live for decades without any symptoms. However, if left untreated, the infection can eventually lead to liver damage and cancer, cirrhosis, and other health issues.
Hepatitis B is spread through contact with infected blood, semen, or vaginal fluids. Most people who are infected do not have symptoms and are unaware they are infected. You can have a short term infection of Hepatitis B, or it can progress to a chronic infection. People who are at higher risk for Hepatitis B include those who have a sexual partner with Hepatitis B, inject drugs or share needles, men who have sex with men, and healthcare workers. The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is through vaccination. This vaccine series is recommended in all infants. At Bridgercare, we can do a blood draw to see if you are immune to the Hepatitis B virus, as well as test for a current infection.
Hepatitis C is spread through contact with infected blood. The most common way Hepatitis C is spread is through injection drug use and sharing needles, syringes, or other supplies for injecting drugs. Before 1992, it was also spread through blood transfusions and organ donations, but now all blood is tested for the virus. It is recommended that people born between 1945 and 1965 be tested for Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C can also be spread from an infected mother to child during birth, and through needlestick injuries in healthcare workers. Less commonly, it can be spread through sharing personal items with someone infected with the virus and is unlikely to be spread through sexual contact.
Most people who are newly infected don’t show any symptoms, and it’s possible for a new infection can resolve on its own. More commonly, it can progress to a serious, chronic infection. There are multiple treatments available that can cure Hepatitis C. There is no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C. You can be tested at Bridgercare with a rapid test that involves a drop of blood collected from a fingerstick and requires 20 minutes to show results. Depending on the results, you may have your blood drawn as well. The rapid test is accurate 12 weeks after potential exposure to the virus.
If you are having symptoms of infection or if you were notified that one of your partners tested positive, we recommend being seen as soon as possible to receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment.