A new, nation-wide campaign is designed to raise awareness about the curious relationship between truckers and Hepatitis C. It's hoped the recently launched "Rolling Against Hepatitis C" will help reduce the number of truck drivers struck down by the deadly liver disease.
Hepatitis C is a virus that, when contracted, targets the liver, leading to cirrhosis, fibrosis, liver cancer, and sometimes death. The virus, which was discovered just two decades ago, is often spread when people share needles or syringes or if people have undergone an unsafe blood transfusion.
Research shows that truckers are 8.5 times more likely to contract Hepatitis C than the rest of the U.S. population. It's suspected that truckers are particularly vulnerable to the virus because most drivers are in their mid-fifties. This means most trucker drivers belong to an age group, popularly known as the 'Baby Boomers', who may have undergone a blood transfusion before Hepatitis C was known to doctors. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, prior to the discovery of HIV, hospital sterilization procedures were far less rigorous than they are today.
Health experts also believe that some truckers may have acquired tattoos in unsanitary environments or at a time (prior to the 1980s) when tattoo sterilization requirements were lax.
The good news is that testing for and treating Hepatitis C is becoming far easier and more effective. The Rolling Against Hepatitis C campaign is being led by OraSure and AbbVie, pharmaceutical companies working on advanced treatments for the virus.
OraSure chief executive officer Doug Michels says the new campaign is about protecting crucial players in the U.S. economy. “Our economy depends on freight movement,” Michels said. “Over the road truck drivers are critically important.”
“We have the opportunity to turn this disease on its head and significantly reduce morbidity and mortality,” Michels added.
The importance of protecting truckers is particularly important given the shortage of drivers on American roads. According to the American Trucking Association, roughly 25,000 more truckers are needed on America's highways right now.