Jul. 26, 2013
Written by: ALEXANDER HARDMAN, VOCAL-NY Westchester
It’s thought that well over 200,000 New Yorkers are living with the hepatitis C virus, and until last year I was one of them. Having been tested more than 10 years ago I was able to take steps to keep myself healthy. My doctors and a support group with other patients taught me about proper nutrition and other steps to live with the virus. And in 2012, I successfully completed treatment.
Many people are not so lucky.
It is thought that at least 50 percent of New Yorkers with hepatitis C do not know their status. While not everyone gets sick, many people develop serious liver disease if untreated. Symptoms often do not appear for decades, but when they do the disease can lead to disability, cirrhosis or liver cancer. And because hepatitis C spreads so easily with blood-to-blood contact, it is now the most common bloodborne viral infection and the leading cause of liver transplant in the United States, and now kills more Americans than HIV. Baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965, and anyone who has ever injected drugs, are at highest risk.
This issue is especially important for the Lower Hudson region. Assuming that New York has the U.S. national average infection rate, in 2009 the State Department of Health estimated that nearly 21,000 were infected in our region. Based on the number of diagnoses at the time, as many as 72 percent of people with hepatitis C in Westchester had not been diagnosed, followed by 64 percent in Rockland County and more than 50 percent in Putnam County.