Published: Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Silent viruses often go undetected – are you at risk?

YOUR HEALTH | By Ashley Stewart
Herald writer
In the shadow of World Hepatitis Day, Snohomish County Health officials urge that testing is important for those who have been exposed to the symptomless virus.
Hepatitis B and C are spread by contact with bodily fluid and, if left untreated, can cause cirrhosis, or scarring, of the liver. Liver cirrhosis can lead to bleeding, build up of fluid in the abdominal cavity, coma, liver cancer or failure and death. In cases of chronic hepatitis B, liver cancer can develop before cirrhosis forms.
Hepatitis B and C are called “silent” viruses because they are generally symptomless. The World Hepatitis Alliance estimates that, worldwide, one in 12 people live with hepatitis B or C. In Snohomish County, about 680 cases of chronic hepatitis C and 110 cases of chronic hepatitis B are reported every year. Without testing, both forms of the virus can go undetected.
The alliance spearheaded World Hepatitis Day to raise global awareness on July 28.
“Get tested if you've ever been at risk,” said Suzanne Pate, spokeswoman for the Snohomish Health District. “This applies to an awful lot of people who remember the 'summer of love.'”
At the end of last month, the Snohomish Health District honored World Hepatitis Day by displaying information in the atrium of the Rucker Building and on “The Takeaway” radio program on 90.7 FM.
The district continues to provide vaccines for hepatitis A and B and a hepatitis C test at no charge for people who have been exposed.
Those at risk include people who:
• received transplants, transfusion or other blood products before July 1992
• received clotting factor for hemophilia or organ transplants before 1987
• were born to hepatitis C virus-infected women
• have used illegal drugs
• received body tattoos or piercings with unsterilized equipment
• have had sexual contact with an infected person or have a history of sexually transmitted disease
• are men who have had sexual contact with men
“Testing for hepatitis C is really simple. It's a blood drop test; they just (puncture) the finger to get a drop of blood,” Pate said.
Patients who indicate a history of injecting drugs will receive testing for other types of hepatitis as well.
What to do
Schedule an appointment with the Snohomish Health District at 425-339-8620. For information about the district's awareness program, visit
General hepatitis information is available online at and