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Free hepatitis testing for at-risk individuals

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Published:2013-05-08 County
Free hepatitis testing for at-risk individuals    Print Snohomish Times    
Free hepatitis testing for at-risk individuals

Snohomish Health District nurse Kathy Perkins finds hepatitis in all walks of life, but most often in people who have injected drugs – even once – or have been tattooed or pierced with unsterilized equipment. People born between 1945 and 1965 are five times more likely than other adults to be infected. In fact, 75% of adults with Hepatitis C were born in these years.

Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus. In the US, the most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications and certain medical conditions can also cause hepatitis. A and B can be prevented by vaccines, but Hepatitis C cannot. It is, however, curable. Left untreated, it can cause severe illness and death. Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and the leading reason for liver transplants.

About 660 residents of Snohomish County tested positive for Hepatitis C in 2012. An estimated 4.4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis; most do not know they are infected.

Perkins will offer free tests for Hepatitis C to at-risk individuals from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, May 17, at the Health District, 3020 Rucker Ave, Suite 106, Everett, Wash. You can walk in or make an appointment by calling 425.339.8620.

“The big step is finding out if you have hepatitis,” said Perkins. “We have a rapid test this year that takes about 20 minutes to deliver a result.” The test requires a drop of blood from a pricked finger.

You qualify for a Hepatitis C test if:

 you have a history of injection drug use

 you are living with HIV

 you received a blood transfusion or solid organ transplant before July 1992, or clotting factor concentrates made before 1987

 you have ever received long-term hemodialysis

 you were born between 1945 and 1965, need to know your status, and do not have access to a screening through any other means

Perkins offers tests most often in shelters, needle exchanges, and correctional facilities for youth and adults.

“One of my first patients was a regular visitor to the needle exchange,” said Perkins. “The woman had used drugs for about 10 years when I tested her for Hepatitis C and she came up positive. She had no insurance, no money, and no medical care.” Fortunately, the woman entered drug treatment and was connected to a primary care physician who treated her hepatitis. Today she has been drug-free for eight years and is cured of hepatitis.




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