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August 8, 2013  |  By John Barboza, Addictions Nurse, Duffy Health Center

The old adage, ‘Prevention is the Best Medicine’ has been used by the medical profession long before the discovery of the pesky Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). Patients were getting sick and dying of non-hepatitis A / non-hepatitis B liver infections prior to the discovery of Hepatitis C, and development of life saving treatment.

The three United States health awareness and prevention organizations that I rely upon (clickable links are listed at the end of this story) for current and accurate information, all recommend at least a one-time screening for Hepatitis C for certain segments of the U.S. and world populations.

It has been my experience that “fear and stigma” are the plausible reasons that intelligent, resourceful humans avoid detection and prevention of treatable diseases. Medical professionals are responsible to alleviate fear and stigma for patients. (Mainstream media instills fear and stigma.) Patients are responsible to make informed decisions and become proactive to live healthier lives.

The three governmental health agencies – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Prevention Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – all recommend that the special populations, Baby Boomers (persons born between 1945 and 1965), and the substance abuse populations (past and present) at least have a conversation with their medical providers and be screened for Hepatitis C. The CDC (2012) estimates that 3.2 million Americans have been infected (try to avoid the stigma attached to “infected”), and at least another 800,000 more hepatitis cases could be diagnosed and treated if the screening recommendations are followed. Any persons that have had a blood transfusion prior to 1992, have participated in risk (avoid the stigma of “risk”) behaviors; tattooing, body piercing, unprotected sex, intravenous drug use (even if thought it was safe or one time only), shared any instrument to inhale (snort) pharmaceutical or non-pharmaceutical drugs with close friends or while “partying,” and has worked in the healthcare field.

Cape Cod Healthcare’s Infectious Disease Control Services (IDCS phone: 508-862-5650) is a tremendous and confidential local resource relating to all infectious diseases including Hepatitis C.

So, be KIND to your-self and others, get tested and share this information with your friends, family, co-workers or bring this uncomfortable subject up for conversation with others. Let us all disregard misinformation, bogus information, rumor and ignorance.

U.S. Health Awareness and Prevention Organizations:

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration