It's a virus that has infected more than three million Americans, many of whom don't even know they're infected. You've probably heard of Hepatitis C but what is it exactly and is it treatable?
It's nobody's favorite thing to do but Rodney Geurtz has gotten used to having his blood drawn. In fact it was a blood test done last year that revealed a hidden virus.
"I had gout so I went and got that checked and then my blood came back funny so they decided to do a test on it." said Geurtz.
The blood test confirmed Rodney had contracted Hepatitis C.
"I was kind of bummed out because I didn't know if I could die from it, I knew it affected the liver but at that point would I need a liver transplant? I wasn't sure so my doctor recommended to come see Dr. Niazi." said Geurtz.
Dr. Mumtaz Niazi is a liver disease specialist at Avera McKennan and helped Rodney get the answers he needed. While it was gout that initially brought Rodney in, his case is very uncommon. Dr. Niazi says it often can take years for the virus to actually cause symptoms and prompt a blood test.
"One of the common presentations of Hepatitis C is generalized tiredness and fatigue so they feel like they are more tired and as a part of the work up we will find out that they have Hepatitis C." said Dr. Niazi.
The people most at risk of carrying the virus are like rodney, the Baby Boomers. The virus is only transmitted through the blood and prior to 1992 there weren't as many regulations on blood donation, sterilization of medical equipment and other needles.
So what does Hepatitis C do? Well, basically it inflames your liver. The liver acts as a filter for all the toxins that enter your body and if it's not working properly those toxins and waste are able to build up and destroy your liver and your immune system. That's the bad news. The good news is the virus is not invincible, a simple pill can stop Hepatitis C dead in it's tracks in a matter of weeks.
"So within two months Hepatitis C will be gone for good from that person and the success rate is approximately 90 to even in some patients close to 100-percent." said Dr. Niazi.
Thanks to the gout, Rodney's Hepatitis was discovered early and a year later he's feeling much better.
"Actually I am cured, well I am 99% cured but I will still carry that gene the rest of my life." said Geurtz.
Rodney will continue to make sure his liver is holding up but he's definitely extended his life. So if you have any doubts, follow Rodney's advice: get it checked out.
"I would say when you go in for a physical it wouldn't hurt to get checked for Hepatitis C especially my age group." said Geurtz.
"It's a simple blood it doesn't cost a lot of money, it's covered by our insurance companies and if they have Hepatitis C there is nothing wrong with that and they can be treated very effectively with the new medications." said Dr. Niazi.
Hepatitis C can be a scary diagnosis, but with today's medicine and a proactive patient this virus is nothing to fear.
Dr. Niazi says medications continue to get better at fighting Hepatitis and the treatment options are already so effective that many believe the virus will be eliminated in the united states within the next 20 years. For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.