More than 130 million people in the world live with chronic Hepatitis C.
It’s a blood borne virus that causes inflammation of the liver.
News 10 has more on the Hepatology Clinic at Iberia Medical Center that’s saving lives.
The CDC estimates 60,000 people in Louisiana are infected with the
Chronic Hep C can cause serious health problems including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death.
“If you don’t screen for this, you won’t know it,” said gastroenterologist Dr. Son Nguyen. “A regular annual blood test that patients often get at a primary care clinic does not encompass this. You have to check for viral Hepatitis C.”
According to the CDC most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.
But that’s a stigma Dr. Nguyen says is not always the case.
“Essentially if you were born between 1945 and 1965, which is considered the baby boomers, then you are at risk. If you’ve had tattoos that are not done professionally you are at risk. Also homelessness, incarceration and even sexually transmitted.”
Charlie McBride was diagnosed with Hepatitis C after he experienced significant stomach bloating.
He was working as a fireman and says he came in contact with the virus on the job.
“We took the medication for a certain period of time. It had to be taken everyday,” McBride said.
Sharon Boyd contracted Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion in the 1970s, before they fully screened blood donations.
She too experienced significant stomach bloating.
“I didn’t know that I had this. I didn’t even know you could get this and it lay dormant and then all of a sudden it comes out,” Boyd said. “That’s what happened. It stayed dormant in my body and I didn’t know I had it.”
Both Boyd and McBride say Dr. Nguyen and the Hepatology Clinic has been life-changing for them.
They are both officially cured from Hep C.
They say having a doctor who truly cared for them is what saved their lives.
“I told him I was not ready to die. I had a grandchild that I had to watch grow up and he has saved my life,” Boyd said.
“We had adopted a child. I had taken on the responsibility of raising one of my grandchildren,” Boyd said. “I had other grandchildren I wanted to see graduate and marry them off. I feel Dr. Nguyen has given me that second chance.”
Hepatitis C can be cured with medication.
Symptoms include jaundice, abdominal pain, fever and loss of appetite.
Dr. Nguyen says go see your doctor right away to get tested if you show any symptoms.