Maine CDC Press Release

May 29, 2018

Maine CDC Stresses Importance of Testing During National Hepatitis Awareness Month

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) joined with states across the nation throughout the month of May to observe National Hepatitis Awareness Month.

In recent years, Maine has seen a sharp increase in the number of cases of hepatitis B and hepatitis C cases. Viral hepatitis is a leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation among adults in the United States. More people die from hepatitis C than all of the 60 other reported infectious diseases combined. Hepatitis C is 10 times more infectious than HIV and hepatitis B is 100 times more infectious than HIV.

Most people infected with hepatitis B and hepatitis C will not have any symptoms. The only way to know if you have hepatitis B or C is to be tested. Those who do have symptoms may experience fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored stools, joint pain and jaundice (yellow skin). Many of those living with Hepatitis C do not know they are infected and can live with the infection for decades without feeling sick. If left untreated, the disease can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.

"Anyone at risk for hepatitis B and hepatitis C should ask their healthcare provider about getting tested," said Dr. Bruce Bates, Maine CDC Director. "Getting tested is critical to helping people learn if they are infected, getting them into lifesaving care and treatment, and helping them avoid spreading the infection to others."

Those who have not been vaccinated for hepatitis should ask their healthcare provider about receiving a vaccination for hepatitis A and B. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. There is treatment to control hepatitis B and C infections. However, preventing life threatening liver disease requires early detection, through testing and early treatment.

Hepatitis can be spread by sharing syringes, needles, and shared injection equipment, such as water, tourniquets, cotton, drug cookers, contaminated surfaces or the drugs themselves. Don't share any part of your kit. If you have ever injected drugs, you should get tested for Hepatitis B and C. If you are currently injecting, talk to your doctor about how often you should be tested and about getting vaccinated for hepatitis A and B. To see the U.S. CDC Hepatitis C & Injection Drug Use Fact Sheet, please visit: cdc.gov/hepatitis/HCV/PDFs/FactSheet-PWID.pdf

All suspected and confirmed hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV cases should be reported immediately to the Maine Center for Disease Control at 1-800-821-5821.

For more information, please visit:

• U.S. CDC websites on hepatitis:
cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis.
cdc.gov/hepatitis/

• Maine CDC Hepatitis website:
.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/hepatitis/