Officials with the Wyoming Department of Health are warning people about the dangers of viral hepatitis.

Debi Anderson, Communicable Disease Unit Manager with the department, says many people are infected with Hepatitis B and C and don't even know it since the disease can remain dormant for long periods.

There were 491 cases of hepatitis C reported in the state last year, along with 34 cases of Hepatitis B.

Both diseases can cause severe liver damage or failure, and more than 60 percent of liver cancer cases are caused by hHepatitis B or C.

Anderson says people born between 1945 and 1965 are five times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than other adults. Other people at high risk of being infected with Hepatitis C include people who inject drugs, babies born to infected mothers, people who received blood-clotting medications before 1987, people are known to have been exposed to the disease, those who are HIV positive, and people who received blood transfusions or organ donations before 1992.

People at high risk for Hepatitis B include those born in Asia or the Pacific Islands, travelers to areas with high rates of the disease, men who have sex with men, anyone who has had sex with an infected person, people with a sexually transmitted disease, anyone who is exposed to blood at their job, and those who work with the developmentally disabled people.

Symptoms of Hepatitis B and C include fever, vomiting, nausea, yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine and clay-colored stools. But because many people who are infected don't show any symptoms, Anderson says it's important for people in high-risk groups to get tested.

She says the tests can be conducted by medical professionals, adding vouchers for hepatitis testing as well as for other sexually transmitted diseases are available online.

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