Hepatitis C Awareness and Screening Recommendations

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Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 7.10.30 AMBy Amy N. Puntureri R.Ph

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and Giant Eagle is partnering with the American Liver Foundation to offer a series of FREE Hepatitis C screenings at several Pittsburgh-area Giant Eagle Pharmacies.  Please see this article for details on the screenings.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes damage to the liver. It is a contagious disease that can present as a mild illness that lasts for several weeks, or as a serious, lifelong illness that can cause scarring of the liver, liver failure, liver cancer or death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 15,000 people die every year from complications of Hepatitis C liver disease. There is currently no vaccine available for the Hepatitis C virus, furthering the importance of screenings and early detection.

Hepatitis C is usually spread through exposure to blood from an infected individual. The most common means of exposure are by sharing needles during IV drug use, accidental needlesticks in the healthcare field, children born to an infected mother, and receiving a blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992, when the widespread blood-supply screenings began.

It is estimated that over 3 million people in the U.S. have a chronic Hepatitis C infection, and the majority are not aware that they have the disease because they can live for decades without feeling sick. While more than 70% of individuals infected with the virus do not experience any symptoms, possible symptoms can be mild to severe and include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Dark urine/clay colored stool
  • Joint pain
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes

According to the CDC, “Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer. It is estimated that one-time testing of everyone born during 1945 through 1965 will prevent more than 120,000 deaths.” The CDC recommends that the following populations be tested for Hepatitis C:

  • Anyone born between 1945 and 1965
  • Current or former IV drug users
  • Anyone who received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
  • Long term hemodialysis patients
  • Patients with liver disease or abnormal liver tests
  • Healthcare workers exposed to blood through a needlestick or injury
  • Anyone treated for a blood clotting problem prior to 1987
  • Anyone infected with HIV

For more information on Hepatitis C, please visit www.liverfoundation.org/ or www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/c/

To learn more about Giant Eagle Specialty Pharmacy, please visit www.gianteagle.com/specialty-rx

Amy N. Puntureri R.Ph is a 1994 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. She has been a retail pharmacist for 18 years, 13 of which at Giant Eagle Pharmacy, and most recently was the Pharmacy Team Leader at the Village at Pine Market District in Wexford, PA. For the last year and a half she has been the Retail Pharmacy Operations Liaison for Giant Eagle’s Specialty Pharmacy program.

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