Truckers more likely to contract hepatitis

“Truckers Rolling Against Hepatitis C” is bringing together a variety of folks in a creative campaign to highlight hepatitis C infections among truckers.

I mention it here because the campaign rolled through the Carlisle area this week. The Driver Wellness Tour visited the Petro Shopping Centers in Middlesex Township, Cumberland County, to provide free wellness services for professional drivers, including workout sessions and free hepatitis C virus testing.

Ron Ticho, senior vice president, corporate communications for OraSure Technologies, cited statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show hepatitis C prevalence among truck drivers has reached 8.5 percent, more than five times the national average.

Seventy-five percent of people carrying the hepatits C virus don’t know it, he added. The virus can cause liver cancer down the line.

“Knowing about it and knowing whether you have it or not is very important,” Ticho said. “With the therapies that are available now, you can get cured and not have that risk.”

Based in Bethlehem, OraSure is part of the campaign and offers the only rapid test for hepatitis C. It involves a finger stick, Ticho said, and the results are known in about 20 minutes.

“It’s a highly accurate test and produces the same accuracy as a lab-based test,” Ticho said.

The average American trucker is 55, in the baby boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1964). Baby boomers, especially men, are the most at-risk demographic in America for hepatitis C. The CDC has recommended every baby boomer in the nation be tested for the virus.

Many boomers could have contracted the disease through a blood transfusion during those years when doctors were ignorant on hepatitis C and how to treat and test for it. Today, hepatitis C is usually spread through drug use.

The tour is supported by industry leaders, including Freightliner Trucks, Rolling Strong and the Truckers Rolling Against Hepatitis C campaign, a nationwide initiative to educate professional truck drivers about HCV and encourage testing.

The industry has good reason to partner in efforts to keep drivers healthy and reduce morbidity. The American Trucking Associations has said there is a shortage of 30,000 truckers nationwide, a figure that could climb to 200,000 in a decade.

John Hilton

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