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Local Hepatitis C survivor: Why you should get tested

Randy Valimont, a Richland resident and Vietnam Vet, is one of nearly 3 million Americans impacted by Hepatitis C -- a potentially live-threatening liver disease.

RICHLAND, Wash. -- October is Liver Awareness Month, and in hopes of bringing attention to liver health, a Hepatitis C survivor from Richland wanted to get the message out about this "silent" disease. He said most often, people who have Hepatitis C don't even know it.

"Some people show symptoms, some don’t, but it just sits there and eats your liver,” said Randy Valimont, a survivor of Hep C.

Valimont got Hepatitis C back in 2005, through a routine colonoscopy. The clinic didn't follow proper sanitation procedures.

"When I found out I was angry. I thought, that’s just not fair,” Valimont said. “They should have taken precautions.”

Hepatitis C is a serious, and potentially life-threatening disease that can result in severe liver damage, long-term health problems and even death.

Approximately 3.2 million people in the United States are living with Hep C, according to the CDC.

Most commonly affected are "baby boomers" (individuals born between 1945-1965) and veterans, for two reasons:

First, during military training and combat, there were many opportunities to transmit the virus through blood-to-blood contact. Secondly, any blood transfusions or blood products were not tested for the virus before 1992.

A “silent” disease, Hep C often has no noticeable symptoms for years, even decades. This makes screening critical.

"Don’t take a chance, go get tested for Hep C because a lot of people won’t have any indicators, no symptoms,” Valimont said. “So it could be sitting there eating you up, and you not know it.”

Nowadays, Hep C is most often spread through contaminated needles from tattoos, needle sticks or IV drug use.

“If you do have it, you need to find out because there’s a cure for it now,” Valimont said.

Valimont said he feels lucky to have found out he had the disease and he’s thankful he was able to be cured through more advanced medication—without having to suffer terrible side effects of old treatments.

He said he hopes his story will encourage others to take similar health precautions and just check.

Hepatitis C is the number one cause of liver failure and liver-related death, and it is a major cause of liver cancer. The CDC published new data that shows more Americans now die from Hep C than any other infectious disease. Again, making it critical for everyone to get tested.

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