Livingston County Health Center will be offering free Hepatitis C testing through the Missouri HepC Alliance beginning January 16 by appointment.

Livingston County Health Center will be offering free Hepatitis C testing through the Missouri HepC Alliance beginning January 16 by appointment. The Missouri HepC Alliance is a community focused nonprofit organization with a mission to create awareness through providing education, testing and support for the detection, prevention and treatment of hepatitis C. Hepatitis C attacks the liver but can remain without symptoms for decades. HCV is not vaccine preventable and is the most common blood borne infection in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention an estimated 3 million to 4 million people in the U.S. have chronic Hepatitis C virus infection. Most people do not know they are infected because they don’t look or feel sick. Of those, it is estimated that 2.7 million are currently living with chronic HCV infection. HCV related Chronic Liver Disease is the leading indication for liver transplant among adults in the United States. HCV is most often spread by direct blood-to blood contact. HCV is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. The HCV can live in dried blood and on environmental surfaces for days. The virus can be spread easily to others through blood, even in amounts too small to see. Chronic hepatitis C infection has become a critical, unrecognized health care problem, according to Sherry Weldon, Livingston County Health Center director. The HepC Alliance has found a positive rate as high as 19 percent among people with risk factors, within the Missouri population. National statistics indicate the average age of a person with HCV is 45-65 years old, however the average has been 32 in Missouri. “This testing program is designed to reach those individuals who are not aware they are at risk for HCV,” Weldon said. Those who would like to be tested should call the Health Center at 646-5506 to set up an appointment.