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May 18, 2016

The Florida Department of Health in Orange County (DOH-Orange) recognizes May as National Hepatitis Awareness Month. The intent of the annual observance is to raise awareness about the global impact of viral hepatitis and the importance of preventing hepatitis-related liver disease, including liver cancer.

The Hepatitis Prevention Program in Orange County has partnered with local businesses to providing rapid hepatitis C testing and hepatitis B vaccines to their employees.  The Hepatitis Prevention Program in Orange County provides free hepatitis testing and hepatitis B vaccines Monday through Friday to at risk individuals by appointment. Please call 407-858-1420 for an appointment.

“Most people are unaware they are infected with hepatitis. Screening and testing are essential to help reduce the burden of illness and death from these serious liver diseases,” said Dr. Kevin M. Sherin, director of the Department of Health in Orange County. ”Be aware of the risk factors associated with hepatitis and get vaccinated to prevent this disease.”

Hepatitis is characterized by inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common types of viral hepatitis in the United States. Symptoms of hepatitis, if they are present, include nausea, fever, weakness, loss of appetite and jaundice. Hepatitis A is transmitted by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated with human waste (feces). Hepatitis B is spread through contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person. Hepatitis C is usually spread through contact with blood containing the virus. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C (HCV). 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends baby boomers or anyone born from 1945-1965 get tested for Hepatitis C. Baby boomers are 5 times more likely to have Hepatitis C. The reason that baby boomers have high rates of Hepatitis C is not completely understood. Most boomers are believed to have become infected in the 1970s and 1980s when rates of Hepatitis C were the highest.

Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can become chronic, life-long infections. More than five million Americans are living with chronic Hepatitis B or chronic Hepatitis C in the United States, but most do not know they are infected. Chronic hepatitis can cause serious liver problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.  People with chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C have the greatest risk of liver cancer. In fact, more than 60 percent of liver cancer cases are associated with Hepatitis B or C.

For information or assistance on this program, please contact Saadia Stephan at 407-858-1420.