100,000+ infected with Hep C in MA, 75% don't know

BOSTON (WWLP) — More than 100,000 people are living with Hepatitis C in Massachusetts and 75 percent of those infected don’t even know it.  It’s known as a silent killer because there are no outward symptoms. Three out of four people who are infected have no idea. It spreads through blood, mainly through sharing needles, and causes liver damage.

“A lot of people, especially men who’ve been incarcerated feel that,” “Oh it’s just desserts, it is what I deserve, and it is just not true. I don’t think anyone deserves this and everyone deserves to be cured.” said Rick DuBard, a former Hepatitis C patient from Charlestown.

The baby-boomer generation comprises up to 70 percent of all Hepatitis C cases. But about 1,000 new cases are reported annually among young people aged 15 to 25 years old.

“You can also get Hepatitis C, it’s a little bit more able to be transmitted than HIV for example, so you can get it from other kinds of drug paraphernalia as well so it’s not just the needles,” said Malinda Ellwood, a health law fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation.

State lawmakers have reduced funding for treatment and testing campaigns by about $4 million dollars over the past 5 years. Health advocates want to restore funding to about $36 million dollars.  Hepatitis C is curable, but if left untreated, the virus could infect others and reduce a person’s life. Health advocates are encouraging everyone to get tested.

“This Tuesday, May 21 st from 10am to 2pm we’ll be having a free rapid Hepatitis C testing event at the Holyoke Needle Exchange,” said Tapestry Health Needle Exchange Program Director Liz Whynott.  “It’s free and open to the public. We’ll be offering testing and we’ll also be having a barbeque.”

Health advocates say you can get tested for Hepatitis C in 20 minutes with a pin prick.  Tapestry Health’s Needle Exchange is located at 15A Main Street in Holyoke. 

 

Copyright 2014 WWLP TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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