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The term "hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver. Viral hepatitis refers to a group of viral infections that affect the liver. The most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. While hepatitis A infection lasts from a few weeks to a few months, hepatitis B and hepatitis C can develop into chronic, long term infections and cause liver disease over time.
Viral hepatitis infection is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplants in the United States and Oregon.
Hepatitis A and hepatitis B can be prevented with vaccines. The best way to protect against hepatitis A and B infections is by getting vaccinated.
Persons at high risk of hepatitis B infection or persons from countries where HBV is endemic (regularly found) should also have hepatitis B testing prior to vaccination. If a person does not have healthcare, 211 info can help locate a health clinic or provider.
Hepatitis C in Oregon
Since reporting started in 2005, over 47,000 hepatitis C (HCV) infections have been reported in Oregon. Studies show that an estimated 50% of persons living with HCV have not been diagnosed, suggesting that as many as 95,000 Oregonians could be infected. It is generally accepted that 5 - 25% of those infected will develop cirrhosis 20 to 30 years later, and 1 - 5 % will develop end-stage liver disease or cancer. Read more:
Hepatitis C Infections in Oregon
- Over 5,000 persons with positive hepatitis C tests are reported each year in Oregon.
- Rates of new infections with hepatitis C and deaths from hepatitis C are higher in Oregon than the U.S. as a whole.
- Nearly half of new (acute) hepatitis C infections in Oregon from 2009 to 2014 occurred in persons under 30 years of age and the majority of cases were under age 40.
- The annual number of liver cancer cases in Oregon has doubled in the last 10 years; by 2012, over half of the cases were due to chronic viral hepatitis.
- In the past five years, 80% of deaths from hepatitis C in Oregon occurred in persons aged 45-64 years.
- In Oregon, hepatitis C disproportionately affects African Americans and American Indians compared to Whites.
Hepatitis is a silent killer
An estimated 50% of people living with chronic viral hepatitis in the U.S. are not aware of their infection.
Viral hepatitis is sometimes called a "silent killer" because chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections can progress without symptoms for years, with a person learning about their infection after they have moderate to advanced liver disease.
The only way to know if a person has viral hepatitis is through testing.
Watch: Robin Roth's story (Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition)
Hepatitis C - Why Baby Boomers Should Get Tested
Hepatitis C testing
People with health insurance who want to be screened for hepatitis C should see their health care provider and request a hepatitis C screening test.
People with limited insurance coverage or financial resources can find a list of facilities offering free or low cost hepatitis C screening (from the Caring Ambassadors Hepatitis C Program).
Hepatitis C - What to Expect when Getting Tested
ABCs of Hepatitis
Hepatitis A Vaccine Information
Hepatitis B Vaccine Information
Hepatitis C Information
Viral Hepatitis Information for Gay and Bisexual Men