Hepatitis rates have more than doubled over the past 10 years in North Dakota but that trend may be slowing down.
Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver disease which forces patients to get transplants.
State health leaders say nationally, it’s the most common reportable infection that will cause death.
In 2009, North Dakota saw 468 cases of the disease.
That number jumped to 1,182 in 2018.
As we end 2019, state health leaders say we’re trending slightly lower than that.
If that holds, it would be the first year-to-year decrease since at least 2014.
The slowing trend may be in part because of a cure scientists discovered in the middle of the decade.
Doctors say hepatitis c often doesn’t show symptoms until it becomes more serious, but can later cause jaundiced skin, abdominal pain and nausea.
That’s why people who track disease rates say getting tested is so important.
“It’s very under-reported. A lot of people are living with hepatitis C and they don’t know that they are infected, about 1 in 2 people that’s the case. So we really want to encourage people to get tested because you don’t know if you don’t get tested,” said Shari Renton, state Department of Health viral hepatitis surveillance coordinator.
Renton says the most common way to catch the disease is through dirty needles, so if you’ve ever injected drugs, you should get tested.
They also say baby boomers should get tested as well because of less safe health practices decades ago.