Arkansas is currently experiencing an increase of hepatitis C cases. The Arkansas Department of Health is encouraging those who feel they may have been exposed to get tested.
Symptoms of hepatitis C include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, light-colored stool, loss of appetite, fever, abdominal pain, fatigue, joint pain, dark urine and/or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). Some people do not experience any symptoms at all. Hepatitis C is contagious through contact with an infected person’s blood or instruments contaminated with an infected person’s blood. Hepatitis C is spread mostly through injection drug use and rarely from sexual contact or mother to child in the womb.
A blood test called an HCV antibody test is used to determine if someone has ever been infected with the illness. Those who test positive are given a follow-up HCV RNA test to determine if they are infectious and have chronic hepatitis C disease.
Hepatitis C can be cured with medications that are effective in 95 percent of cases. Treatment is available in the form of oral medication that is usually taken for eight to 12 weeks and may be covered by private insurance, federal insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. In addition, those who have no insurance and/or financial hardships can receive assistance with medication treatments through application with pharmaceutical companies.
Please contact your doctor to make an appointment or seek appropriate medical care if you suspect you have hepatitis C. Testing is also available through your local county health unit.
For more information about Hepatitis C, visit www.healthyarkansas.gov.