Dept. of Health hosts free testing for National Hepatitis Awareness Month

More than 20 states have reported cases of the UK variant of the coronavirus as of Friday.
More than 20 states have reported cases of the UK variant of the coronavirus as of Friday.(Houston Dept. of Health via CNN)
Published: May. 16, 2021 at 10:55 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Division of STD, HIV and Viral Hepatitis is encouraging South Carolinians to get tested.

DHEC county health departments will be offering free testing on May 18, which is National Hepatitis Testing Day.

Organizers say anyone can be tested for HIV, STDs, and Hepatitis C at no cost.

“Hepatitis is a hidden illness. Millions of Americans are living with chronic hepatitis and don’t know they are infected. The only way to find out is to be tested,” DHEC Division of STD/HIV/Viral Hepatitis Ali Mansaray said. “Detecting viral hepatitis early can help people avoid serious outcomes, such as liver cancer or the need for a liver transplant.”

There are three common strains of viral hepatitis (A, B and C), with varying disease severity, prevention and treatment methods.

DHEC says South Carolina is currently experiencing a hepatitis A outbreak, with more than 2,000 cases identified since November 2018.

Health officials say this outbreak is concentrated among people who use injection or non-injection drugs, people experiencing homelessness, people currently or recently incarcerated, and men who have sex with men. Hepatitis A, as well as hepatitis B, can be prevented by vaccination.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DHEC recommend all adults and pregnant women get tested for Hepatitis C.

DHEC says about 67% of people living with hepatitis B and 50% of the people living with hepatitis C are unaware of their status and are at risk for developing liver disease or cancer.

In 2019, 527 cases of chronic hepatitis B and 7,022 cases of chronic hepatitis C were diagnosed in South Carolina.

Chronic hepatitis B and C can lead to liver disease, failure, cancer or even death if not treated.

Despite hepatitis C being curable, DHEC says there has been an increase in cases largely due to sharing injection drug equipment.

People can find a health department near them by visiting DHEC’s website or calling 855-472-3432.

Learn more about viral hepatitis and its three common types on the CDC’s website.

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