East Hawaii News

Kupuna at Highest Risk of Hepatitis C

May 12, 2016, 9:47 AM HST
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Hep Free Hawai'i photo.

Hep Free Hawai’i photo.

Hepatitis C, which can ultimately lead to liver disease or liver cancer, is an area of concern that the Hawai’i Department of Health is highlighting within baby boomers ages 51 through 71.

The age group is among those who have the highest risk for hepatitis C, according to officials.

In an effort to highlight the issue and provide protection for Hawai’i’s kupuna, DOH is partnering with CVS Minute Clinics and Hep Free Hawai’i to provide hepatitis C point-of-care testing on an ongoing basis, beginning on National Hepatitis Testing Day, which is May 19.

The C/vs Minute Clinics are located solely within select Longs Drugs stores on Oahu.

Hawai’i has the highest rate of liver cancer in the United States and the majority of liver cancer cases in Hawai’i are caused by viral hepatitis types B and C.

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There are about 23,000 people in Hawai’i who live with chronic hepatitis C, according to DOH officials.

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Hepatitis C is spread by blood-to-blood exposure, such as sharing injection equipment, but there are also high rates among baby boomers, regardless of any known blood exposure.

More than one out of four people in Hawai’i are baby boomers and should be tested at least once for hepatitis C infection, according to DOH.

“Most people with hepatitis C don’t know that they have it,” stated Thaddeus Pham, DOH Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator. “If undetected, hepatitis C can lead to liver disease, liver cancer, or even death. Since hepatitis C is manageable and, in some cases, even curable, people can prevent liver cancer through early detection. We encourage all baby boomers, as well as other Hawai’i residents at risk for hepatitis C, to get tested right away. Getting tested is the first step in liver cancer prevention.”

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