Increase Of Hepatitis C Cases Reported In Gallatin County - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Increase Of Hepatitis C Cases Reported In Gallatin County

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BOZEMAN -

More than three-million people in the United States are infected with Hepatitis C. That's according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"In 2000-2002, we were seeing about 35 to 40 cases a year. Now, we're getting about 75 to 80 cases a year," said Matt Kelley, Gallatin County Health Officer.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that is spread through infected bloodborne pathogens.

"It can live inside someone's body for years and even decades without them even knowing it," said Kelley. "Then, later in their life it could cause liver disease or liver cancer."

Kelley said the increase of reports could be attributed to the fact that people who were infected years ago are just now developing symptoms.

"Our population is growing and that may be part of it. It may be also be because people are getting tested or people are just now seeing the symptoms and they are going to their doctors," said Kelley.

Kelley said the people at the highest risk of getting infected are IV drug users and those who have shared needles with someone else.

"Hepatitis C can be transmitted in rare cases through sexual contact, but it's mostly transferred when one person's blood comes in contact with another person's blood," said Kelley.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone who had a blood transfusion prior to 1992 get tested. The report also shows that baby boomers are five times more likely to be infected.

"That was the time when the HIV/AIDS epidemic swept through the country," said Kelley. "That's really when we started being more careful with the blood supply and testing the loud supply in ways that we hadn't done before."

To learn more about Hepatitis C, visit the CDC.

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