The Ottawa Herald (Kan,) (05.22.2013)
In the first four months of 2013, Franklin County, Kans., has already reported 63 percent of the number of hepatitis C cases identified in 2012, considerably more than in previous years. Franklin County Health Department Director Midge Ransom declared, “I can’t tell you how many cases of [hepatitis] C that we have found positive in Franklin County, but I can tell you we are seeing more cases now than in previous years.” Ransom added that they have been identifying these cases on a weekly basis. The CDC Web site noted that baby boomers—those born between 1945 and 1965—comprise 75 percent of hepatitis C cases. The high baby boomer case numbers may be due to the fact that prior to 1992, blood transfusions were not screened for hepatitis C. Ransom also noted the large number of persons who injected drugs and shared needles. Franklin Health Department has been urging baby boomers to get tested for the disease, since often the symptoms associated with the virus are not visible and can remain in a person’s body for years without causing symptoms or problems. Hepatitis C is a precursor to liver cancer. Ransom emphasized the importance of getting tested and getting treatment if necessary, to reduce the risk of other complications. She stated that eight out of 10 people who contract hepatitis C would have the active disease at some point in time. If a person knew early enough that they had hepatitis C, they could seek treatment and manage the disease. According to the CDC Web site, the following people have an increased risk of having hepatitis C and should be tested for the virus: past and current injection drug users; people who received a blood clotting agent made before 1987; recipients of donated blood, blood products, and organs; people who received body piercing or tattoos done with nonsterile instruments; hemodialysis patients or persons who spent many years on dialysis for kidney failure; children born to mothers infected with the hepatitis C virus; and HIV-infected persons. The Franklin County Health Department offers hepatitis C testing; however, Ransom advised speaking first with a physician provider on testing and treatment options. She stressed that Franklin County residents can accomplish prevention by talking about hepatitis C and encouraging everyone to be tested.