Sunday, July 17, 2016

Letter: Know your risk for Hepatitis C; get tested during World Hepatitis Day

Millions of Americans, including some here in Paso Robles, are living with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV). Because the disease is often silent, causing no symptoms for years or decades, many people don’t even know they’re infected.

I learned I had hepatitis C, formerly known as non-A, non-B hepatitis, back in the early 1970s after having blood work done during a hospitalization. Decades later, further blood tests confirmed I had chronic hepatitis C. Left untreated, this potentially life-threatening disease is a leading cause of liver cancer, liver failure and liver-related deaths. At the time I was diagnosed, the only available treatment options were associated with terrible side effects so I decided to wait until other options came along. In 2013, I read about a newly-approved medication that could potentially cure my HCV and asked my doctor about it. He prescribed me a three-month regimen and after completing the treatment, my blood test results showed I was cured! Today, I feel great and enjoy yoga and going to the gym.

Because of my own experience, I’ve become passionate about raising awareness of HCV – encouraging people at risk to be tested and to learn about the new medications now available, which are easy to take and can lead to a cure. Since July 28 is World Hepatitis Day, I encourage everyone who is at risk to get tested. Screening is especially important for baby boomers – like myself – who were born between 1945 and 1965, and account for 28 percent of the population here in Paso Robles.

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