Photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Viral hepatitis claims the lives of roughly 15,000 Americans each year, mostly through liver diseases like cancer. As many as 5.3 million Americans live with chronic forms of hepatitis, and many don’t know it, or the specific type of the virus they have. Lifesaving treatment is available only when you know you're infected, and that's spurring a push by the Department of Health in Collier County to offer free testing and treatment this week.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2.7 million people in the U.S. are living with chronic Hepatitis C.  Between 2012 and 2013, the number of reported acute cases of hepatitis C increased from just over 1,700 to more than 2,100. 

Sanofi Pasteur via Flickr

As many as 5.3 million Americans could be living with chronic viral Hepatitis B or C, yet health experts say most of them don’t even know they’re infected.  Ahead of World Hepatitis Day on July 28, we’ll take a  look at the symptoms and risks of this potentially fatal infection.  We’ll also learn about new screening guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force targeting baby boomers, as well as local efforts to get more people tested.

Free screening locations and times in Collier County are available here:  http://www.doh.state.fl.us/chdcollier/media_alerts_advisories.html

Free screening locations in times in Lee County are as follows:

July 26:  Walgreens Pharmacy  1:00-4:00 p.m.

      3593 Cleveland Ave.  Fort Myers, FL 33901

July 31:  Operation PAR, Inc.  7:00-11:00 a.m.

     535 Pine Island Rd.  North Fort Myers, FL 33903

July 31:  Renaissance Preserve 1:00-4:00 p.m.

     4221 Othello Ln. Fort Myers, FL 33916