Protect yourself from hepatitis

Did you know viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver, causes more than one million deaths per year worldwide? It’s about as many deaths as caused by tuberculosis and HIV combined.

Fortunately, Medicare can help keep you protected from Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, the most common types of viral hepatitis in the United States.

Hepatitis is contagious. For example, the Hepatitis B virus spreads through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. People can also get infected by coming in contact with a contaminated object, where the virus can live for up to 7 days. Hepatitis B can range from being a mild illness, lasting a few weeks (acute), to a serious long-term illness (chronic) that can lead to liver disease or liver cancer.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers Hepatitis B shots, which usually are given as a series of 3 shots over a 6-month period. You need all 3 shots for complete protection.

Medicare also covers a one-time Hepatitis C screening test if your primary care doctor or practitioner orders it and you meet one of these conditions:

  • You’re at high risk because you have a current or past history of illicit injection drug use
  • You had a blood transfusion before 1992
  • You were born between 1945 and 1965

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day. Visit the Centers for Disease Control’s World Hepatitis Day page to learn about the global burden of this disease and CDC’s efforts to combat viral hepatitis around the world.