Research shows Hepatitis C illness, death increasing in Arkansas

Hepatitis C (Hep C) infection is increasing in Arkansas, according to new research published in the May 2015 issue of the Journal of the Arkansas Medical Society. The research, conducted by physicians and epidemiologists from the Arkansas Department of Health and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, showed that Hep C-related hospitalizations increased from 2,837 in 2004, to 4,141 in 2012. In addition, Hep C is now a leading cause or contributing factor in more deaths than HIV; the most recent data available suggests Hep C-related deaths occur at nearly twice the rate of HIV-related deaths.

Dr. Naveen Patil with the Arkansas Department of Health says, "We believe that in Arkansas there may be about 30,000 people who might be chronically infected and a majority of them may not be knowing about it. People who are infected at that time. It usually takes decades for people to manifest the disease of chronic infection, maybe 30-40-50 years. So we are seeing an increased burden of that disease with all it's chronic manifestations right now."

As a result, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is encouraging all individuals born between 1945 and 1965, or anyone who is at risk for infection, get tested for Hepatitis C at least once. Testing is available at all 94 county health units, and individuals may also ask their primary care doctor about getting tested.

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