Hepatitis-monthMore than 7,000 cases of viral hepatitis were reported in Indiana in 2015, and the number of reported acute hepatitis C cases has risen by 400 percent since 2010. Yet nearly three-fourths of people who have the disease are unaware of their infection and are not receiving treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) is encouraging Hoosiers to get tested for the disease and learn how to prevent it during Hepatitis Awareness Month in May.

“Hepatitis is a serious illness, yet it’s one that can easily be prevented by getting vaccinated and avoiding sharing items like syringes, razors and toothbrushes,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “Knowing your risk factors and getting tested are critical steps toward protecting your health.”

Hepatitis A is contracted by ingesting fecal matter of an infected individual. Hepatitis B and C are spread through contact with infected blood, by sharing razors, toothbrushes, contaminated syringes and other injection drug equipment or diabetes testing equipment, and by sharing needles used for tattoos and body piercing.  Hepatitis B and C can be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy and childbirth.

Hepatitis A is an acute illness and resolves on its own, but hepatitis B and C can persist for decades. All can have no symptoms or mild symptoms, which can include nausea, anorexia, fever, malaise, abdominal pain, jaundice and dark urine.

Safe and effective vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B. Medications are available to cure hepatitis C, but they are extremely costly and may not be covered by all insurance companies. Health officials recommend a one-time blood screening for hepatitis C for everyone born between 1945 and 1965, as well as an annual screening for those at increased risk.

Hoosiers can take an online hepatitis risk assessment by visiting the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/riskassessment/index.htm.

Visit the Viral Hepatitis Prevention page at http://www.in.gov/isdh/25797.htm. Visit the Indiana State Department of Health at www.StateHealth.in.gov for important health and safety information, or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/isdh1.