Hepatitis C cases are up in the Appalachian states, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with rates highest in people below 30 years old in West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Health data gathered in the four states between 2006 and 2012 showed that infections rose by 364 percent during the six-year period. People younger than 30 years old also accounted for 1,377 or 44.8 percent of new hepatitis C cases, with injection drug use as a primary risk factor. Estimates for heroin use had shot up in the Appalachian states, going from 2006's 90,000 to 2012's 156,000, a trend consistent with the increase in infections.

Hepatitis C is the most common of blood-borne infections in the United States. According to the CDC, about three million people are living with the disease today. Some people only suffer through short-term infections but majority of those infected by the hepatitis C virus will have to deal with a chronic infection. As a liver infection, hepatitis C can lead to serious long-term health problems. And when not properly addressed, even death.

A big problem with hepatitis C though is that it is possible to acquire an infection without showing symptoms. This is how a lot of people unknowingly infecting others. If you experience fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, and stomach pains or have jaundice, talk to your doctor about getting tested.

It is recommended that the following be tested for a hepatitis C infection: those who had injected drugs, those who had organ transplants or blood transfusions before July 1992, those who were administered blood products for clotting problems prior to 1987, those born from 1945 to 1965, those who have HIV, those on long-term dialysis treatment and those born to mothers with the infection.

A blood test is done to detect the hepatitis C virus. Treatment administered will depend on the genotype of the virus causing an infection.

At the moment, there is no vaccine to protect against hepatitis C. The best means of prevention is simply avoiding activities that promote the spread of the disease, like injecting drugs and having unprotected sex. The hepatitis C virus cannot be spread through casual contact, water or food.

But should an individual be infected, hepatitis C treatment is available, although a lot of issues are surrounding treatment options primarily because of their high cost. Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) from Gilead Sciences, for instance, costs around $84,000 for 12-week course or about $1,000 a day.

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