LAS VEGAS – Are you at risk for hepatitis? May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. For information about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hepatitis awareness program, visit CDC Hepatitis Awareness. The CDC has posted a risk assessment tool CDC Hepatitis Risk Assessment and encourages people to discuss their risks with a healthcare provider.

Throughout May, free, rapid hepatitis C testing will be offered from 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday at The (Gay and Lesbian) Center of Southern Nevada, 401 S. Maryland Parkway. Hepatitis A and B immunizations will be offered at no cost Mondays and Wednesdays in May between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. For more information, contact The Center, (702) 733-9800.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be undetected for many years. Chronic hepatitis infections are a leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation. An estimated 4.4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis infection. There are immunizations to protect against hepatitis A and B. Because of immunizations, cases of acute hepatitis A and B – when people are experiencing symptoms – have declined between 2009 and 2013.

According to the CDC, hepatitis B disproportionately affects Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States with about one in 12 infected with the virus. Although they make up less than 5 percent of the United States’ population, they account for more than half of Americans living with hepatitis B infection; two in three of whom are unaware of their infection as people can live with hepatitis B for many years without having any symptoms.

The CDC states that the overall prevalence of hepatitis C infection in the U.S. is estimated to be 3.5 million, and approximately 75 percent to 85 percent of these are chronic infections. The CDC recommends hepatitis C testing for people born between 1945 and 1965 and estimates that one in 30 baby boomers is infected with hepatitis C and should be tested once in their lifetime Most are not aware of their infection because people who are infected with hepatitis C can be asymptomatic for decades. Hepatitis C is more common among people who received blood transfusions or organ transplants prior to 1992 and injection drug users. The CDC recommends that anyone with a history of injection drug use or unprotected sexual contact with multiple partners be tested for hepatitis B and C.

In addition, the CDC estimates that about 25 percent of HIV-positive people are also infected with hepatitis C, and 80 percent of injection drug users with HIV infection also have hepatitis C. HIV-co-infection more than triples the risk for liver disease, liver failure, and liver related deaths from hepatitis C.

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