July 11, 2012

News Release

For Immediate Release

Health Department Begins Hepatitis C Testing

Hepatitis C testing is now available from the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

Many people who have Hepatitis C never have symptoms and don't know they have it. Although it is hard to know exactly how many people have Hepatitis C, the Centers for Disease Control estimates the number to be about 3.2 million in the United States.

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a chronic, lifelong illness. It is usually spread when blood from an infected person enters the body of someone who is not infected. Before 1992, when widespread screening of the blood supply began in the United States, Hepatitis C was commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Today, most people become infected by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Other risk factors include getting a tattoo or body piercing not done by a professional or having sex with a Hepatitis C-infected partner. HIV-positive individuals are at higher risk of being co-infected with Hepatitis C and should be screened.

Although treatment is available, there are no certainties when it comes to Hepatitis C. Those who are infected should discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating hepatitis, and should be monitored regularly for signs of liver disease. Chronic Hepatitis C infection is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.

And there's a new demographic who should be thinking about Hepatitis C – Baby Boomers. In May, CDC issued new guidelines suggesting Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 get tested for their own health and the health of their loved ones (http://1.usa.gov/Kqbe6X). CDC estimates that about 1 in 30 baby boomers has been infected with Hepatitis C, and most don't know it.

"The often hidden nature of Hepatitis C makes testing extremely important," said Kendra Findley, Community Health and Epidemiology Administrator. "The old adage, 'Knowing is half the battle' certainly applies in this case."

Patients can be tested at the clinic located in the main health department building at 227 E. Chestnut Expressway, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Tests results are typically available within one week. No appointment is necessary.

The department will host an official Hepatitis C testing day on Monday, July 23. The testing day is especially aimed at Baby Boomers, but is open to all.

For more information, contact: Mike Brothers, Public Information Administrator, (417) 874-1205.

About the Health Department Lab

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department laboratory staff conducted nearly 40,000 environmental, analytical and medical tests in 2011. These services include water testing for wells, pools and Greene County streams; Grade A milk testing for Greene County and the surrounding area; daily pollen and mold counts; Tuberculosis tests; blood lead tests; pregnancy tests and screenings for eight types of sexually transmitted diseases. With a staff of six, the lab was recognized nationally as the 2012 "Lab of the Year" runner-up by Medical Laboratory Observer magazine this spring.

springfield greene county health department
city of springfield and greene county logos

Harold K. Bengsch Building

227 E. Chestnut Expwy. • Springfield, MO 65802
417-864-1658 • health.springfieldmo.gov