COUNTY PRESS RELEASE
NEW CITY, NY — In recognition of Hepatitis Awareness Month, Rockland County Executive Ed Day, State Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski and Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert today called on all local Baby Boomers – the generation born from 1945 through 1965 – to get a one-time test for the Hepatitis C virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hepatitis C infects about one in every 30 Baby Boomers, with as many as 75% of those unaware of their status.
“The CDC says three million Americans are living with Hepatitis C and most don’t know they’re infected – placing them at serious risk for liver disease, cancer and death,” said County Executive Day. “We must do more to raise awareness of the life-saving need for testing in our growing population of Baby Boomers.”
“This month is a great opportunity for the public to learn more about this disease and who could be at risk. I urge the over 80,000 Rockland residents who are born between 1945 and 1965 to talk to their doctor about Hepatitis C and how they can be proactive. Hepatitis C is a silent disease, and unfortunately, disproportionately affects baby boomers the most. This simple test can prevent a potential health epidemic from developing, saving thousands of lives,” said Assemblyman Zebrowski.
New York State became the first state in the nation to pass a Hepatitis C testing law aimed at encouraging Baby Boomers to get tested. Starting on January 1, 2014, primary care doctors are required to offer “Boomers” a one-time test that will bring awareness to this now treatable disease.
Hepatitis C can lead to serious liver diseases, including liver cancer (the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related deaths) and is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States. The virus is typically spread by blood and before widespread screening began in 1992, Hepatitis C was unknowingly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants putting those born between 1945-1965 at the highest risk.
The CDC estimates Hepatitis C testing of people between 49 and 69 years of age could identify more than 800,000 additional people with the disease. With new and cutting edge treatment available that can cure up to 90 percent of infections, expanded testing and awareness can save lives. Early detection will avoid the costly long term treatments related to liver disease.
“Once infected, nearly eight in 10 people will have Hepatitis C for life,” said Health Commissioner Ruppert. “A simple blood test is the only way to know if you’ve ever been infected. If it’s positive, you’ll need a follow-up test to learn if you’re still infected. Without it, you can’t get the care you need. Successful treatment can get rid of the virus from the body and help prevent further damage. It may save your life.”
While May is nationally known as Hepatitis Awareness Month, New York State will specifically recognize it as Hepatitis C Awareness Month, with May 19th as Hepatitis Testing Day in the United States. Hepatitis Testing Day is an opportunity to remind health care providers and the public who should be tested for viral hepatitis.
Residents of Rockland County will come together this weekend to honor Hepatitis C survivors, remember those lost to the virus and fight back against the illness during a charity walk in Clarkstown. The 2.6 mile Hepatitis C walk will take place on Saturday, May 17th from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Congers Lake Memorial Park in Congers, with free testing available to the public. For more information on the walk and how to receive a free Hepatitis C test, visit www.kenzebrowskimemorialfund.org. Individuals who may be at risk are encouraged to speak with their primary care physician about receiving a screening test.
In Rockland County, free Hepatitis C testing is also administered by Hudson Valley Community Services in Spring Valley. Visit hudsonvalleycs.org or call (845) 471-0707 for more information. Testing is by appointment.