EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – This Sunday is World Hepatitis Day. Worldwide there are 300 million people unaware that they have hepatitis.
Local doctors say that most people discover they have the disease when it is advanced.
Experts say hepatitis is hard to detect because of the subtle changes like fatigue or poor concentration.
Dr. Ruben Ramirez-Vega, Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist for the Hospitals of Providence, says not a lot of people are aware they have the disease.
“It’s hard to diagnose in the beginning stages because it does not give a lot of symptoms unless the disease is very aggressive or really advanced in the disease process,” Ramirez-Vega explained. “There are patients that may have hepatitis for 10 years and have no symptoms.”
He also says that border cities like El Paso have a higher number of people with one of the types of hepatitis.
“We know that the ones that are in the border area have a higher prevalence of about 2.5 percent, so our community here in El Paso,” Ramirez-Vega. “If we use the numbers of our population, we are talking about probably 20,000 people who may be affected with hepatitis C.”
Ramirez-Vega says that about half of El Pasoans with the condition may not even be aware they carry it.
He recommends that people practice proper sanitation and stay alert for any symptoms as minimal as they may seem.