Hepatitis is a leading cause of liver cancer and affects millions of people in the United States, many of whom are not aware they are infected. May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and a reminder and opportunity to discuss hepatitis risk factors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Hepatitis Awareness information also includes a Hepatitis Risk Assessment and encourages people to discuss their risks with a health care provider.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that may have no symptoms and may not be detected for many years. Chronic hepatitis infections are a leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation. An estimated 4.4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis. There are immunizations to protect against hepatitis A and B, and as a result, hepatitis A cases have declined dramatically.

According to the CDC, hepatitis B disproportionately affects Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States with about one in 12 infected with the virus. Although they make up less than 5 percent of the United States’ population, they account for more than half of Americans living with hepatitis B infection. Additionally, two in three of those infected are unaware as people can live with hepatitis B for many years without having any symptoms. Hepatitis B can be transmitted from a mother to her baby and can also be sexually transmitted.

People born between 1945 and 1965 should get tested for hepatitis C. Baby boomers are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adults. About 50 percent of people with hepatitis C infection are unaware they have it because they can be asymptomatic for decades. Many people with hepatitis C have no reported risk factors. Hepatitis C is more common among people who received blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992 and injection drug users. The CDC recommends that anyone with a history of injection drug use or unprotected sexual contact with multiple partners also be tested for hepatitis B and C. There are approximately 3.2 million people with chronic hepatitis C in the United States with about 29,700 new infections each year. Both chronic hepatitis infections can be treated, and hepatitis C in particular has a very good success rate.

Throughout May, hepatitis C screenings will be available from 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday at The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, 401 S. Maryland Parkway as well as immunizations for hepatitis A and B for at-risk adults. For more information, contact The Center, (702) 733-9800. Hepatitis C screenings are also available each Wednesday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Trac-B Exchange, 6114 W. Charleston Blvd. For more information, contact Trac-B, at (702) 840-6693.

In addition, the CDC estimates that about 25 percent of HIV-positive people are also infected with hepatitis C, and between 50 percent and 90 percent of injection drug users with HIV infection also have hepatitis C. HIV co-infection more than triples the risk for liver disease, liver failure, and liver-related deaths from hepatitis C.

Access information about the Southern Nevada Health District on its website: www.SNHD.info. Follow the Health District on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SouthernNevadaHealthDistrict, YouTube: www.youtube.com/SNHealthDistrict, and Twitter: www.twitter.com/SNHDinfo. The Health District is available in Spanish on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TuSNHD. Don’t have a Twitter account? Follow the Health District on your phone by texting “follow SNHDinfo” to 40404. Additional information and data can be accessed through the Healthy Southern Nevada website: www.HealthySouthernNevada.org.