Hepatitis cases spike in Wisconsin

Hepatitis cases spike in Wisconsin

Health officials are urging two at-risk groups to get tested for hepatitis C: young adults and baby boomers.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease that can lead to severe liver damage or liver failure if it is left untreated.

A Wisconsin Department of Health Services study reported new cases of the disease in all 72 counties within a five-year period.

Medical experts say hepatitis C is likely in young adults who use injectable drugs.

Baby boomers could also be at risk because blood transfusions were not screened before 1992.

Dr. Rob Striker, a professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said many people who are infected with hepatitis C aren’t aware they have it.

Health officials call it a “silent killer” because it shows hardly any symptoms.

“Some people kind of have some vague abdominal pain, some people don’t feel anything at all — that’s the majority of people … some people can notice they’re accumulating fluids in the belly,” Striker said.

Treatment for hepatitis C typically consists of one pill a day for about 8 to 12 months.

Striker said the side effects are minimal.

Striker said baby boomers should get tested at least once, even if they don’t think they have hepatitis C.
Young adults who continue to use injectable drugs are advised to get tested regularly.