Because hepatitis C virus (HCV or hep C) infection can be both a cause and a complication of chronic kidney disease (CKD), the American Kidney Fund today launched a new educational campaign that urges kidney patients and the public to “Be Hep C Smart.”
Although hepatitis C is the most common blood-borne infection in the United States, most of those infected with the virus are unaware of it: It often has no symptoms for decades while slowly damaging the liver and other organs, including the kidneys.
The Be Hep C Smart campaign encourages kidney patients to learn about the connection between hepatitis C virus and kidney disease, to be checked for hepatitis C, and if, found to be positive, to seek treatment.
“There are so many misconceptions about the hepatitis C virus and who is at risk for it, and our Be Hep C Smart campaign aims to demystify hepatitis C and its connection to kidney disease,” said LaVarne A. Burton, AKF president and CEO. “Hepatitis C is associated with the development of diabetes, the leading cause of kidney failure, and the virus itself can cause inflammation of the kidneys. Our campaign is designed to empower patients with knowledge so they can discuss their risks for hepatitis C with their doctors.”
The hepatitis C virus can cause kidney disease and make it worse for those who already have it, and patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD, or kidney failure) can be exposed to the virus through hemodialysis treatment. The Be Hep C Smart page features:
- A quiz that tests users’ knowledge about hepatitis C and kidney disease
- Information about risks, transmission, symptoms, testing and treatment
- An explanation of how hepatitis C is related to kidney disease, hemodialysis and transplants
- A link to an on-demand webinar about hepatitis C and kidney disease
- A link to the information in Spanish
AKF will add a free online continuing education course about hepatitis C and kidney disease for health professionals in early 2018. The Be Hep C Smart campaign is supported by an independent educational grant from Merck & Co., Inc.
Hepatitis C infection is widespread; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that as many as 3.9 million people in the U.S. may have a chronic hepatitis C infection. Two of the groups that the CDC recommends to be tested for hepatitis C are anyone who is, or was, on long-term hemodialysis; and anyone born between 1945 and 1965.