Both bills have same goal — to diagnose baby boomers with hep-c — but differ on which providers would be involved
Democratic lawmakers are again seeking to significantly expand testing for hepatitis C, a potentially deadly liver infection that can be successfully treated — assuming it is properly identified.
Two proposals requiring hep-C screening to be offered to certain patients advanced in legislative committees Monday, one in the Assembly and one in the Senate, and both are now set for votes before each full body. More than 8,000 New Jerseyans were diagnosed with the disease in 2015, but an estimated 150,000 are carrying the virus without knowledge.
As part of a statewide hepatitis C prevalence initiative in Georgia, the North Georgia Health District is conducting the Hepatitis C Prevalence Project (HCPP), which is providing data on occurrences of hepatitis C in the health district via free testing to those who are at higher risk of being infected with the virus. This is a two-step process that identifies and supports individuals who are living with the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Hepatitis C is a contagious and sometimes persistent infection that can lead to lifelong liver disease. The hepatitis C virus is mainly transmitted via contact with blood of an infected person. Most people are unaware they are infected because they don’t look or feel sick.
But the virus can be detected through blood tests. Therefore, the first step in the district’s HCPP process is to identify HCV-infected residents through free rapid hepatitis C virus testing at health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield counties. These tests can produce a preliminary result in 20 minutes by using a finger stick test.
One of the biggest problems standing in the way of reducing HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) infections is that patients don’t even know they’re infected. Lucia V. Torian, PhD, of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and colleagues to set out find just how many people presenting to a busy NYC emergency room (ER) are unaware of their status. Presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2017) in Seattle, Washington, the team gathered data from
Presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2017) in Seattle, Washington, the team gathered data from remnant serum of patients who went to the Bronx ER from March 8, 2015 to May 8, 2015.
Blood was drawn from 63% of ER presenters, which is unusually high, according to the researchers. The study was blinded, so participants did not give consent in order to avoid patients’ bias due to perceived risk. All patient identifiers were permanently removed from the database.
Despite all that medical scientists know about it and how it is transmitted, the liver disease hepatitis C still carries mystery.
“We know it can be passed through shared needles or blood transfusions or getting tattooed with unclean needles, but people do get it with no apparent connection to what we now know causes it,” said Ronald J. Cirillo, MD, medical director of Turning Points, Bradenton’s one-stop center for the medically needy at 701 17th Ave. W., Bradenton.
“There is just a lot about hep C we don’t know and we would love to know,” Cirillo added.
Having incorporated hepatitis C screening into most of its preventive clinical offerings, the Knox County Health Department (KCHD) has tested more than 3,000 patients since June 1, 2016, and discovered a 10 percent infection rate among those tested.
“To effectively address hepatitis C in our community, we must have a better understanding of the scope of this epidemic locally,” said KCHD Clinical Services Director Dr. Kelly Cooper. “Compared to the rest of the country, the highest rates of hepatitis C are estimated to be in Appalachia. And, this is exactly what this preliminary data for Knox County is showing us.”
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by a blood-borne virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is the most common blood-borne infection in the United States. The CDC estimates three million people are living with the virus and that three in four of those infected are not aware of their infection and, therefore, are not receiving preventive services or treatment. While the majority of those infected nationally are baby boomers, the latest increase in cases has been linked with IV drug use. In fact, Tennessee’s rate of acute hepatitis C has more than tripled since 2009. Chronic hepatitis C, alternatively, is not currently a reportable disease, and therefore not comprehensively tracked.
Hepatitis C virus infection is one of our nation’s most pressing public health concerns for infectious disease specialists and hepatologists. Not only did acute HCV infections increase 250% from 2010 to 2014, a recent report from the CDC shows that more people die of HCV in the United States than any other infectious disease, with a total 19,659 reported HCV–related deaths in 2014. Almost all of these deaths are due to the impact of chronic HCV on the liver (cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease, liver transplantation, and/or hepatocellular carcinoma or primary liver cancer).
Policymakers and clinicians have worked aggressively in the past decade to address the HCV epidemic, developing and implementing new CDC screening recommendations and a sweeping strategic plan, the HHS national viral hepatitis action plan, to identify infected individuals, prevent transmission and reduce mortality by the year 2020. But the most significant obstacle of combatting HCV is that most HCV–infected individuals are asymptomatic, until late in the disease process, with at least half those chronically infected unaware of their status. Given the recent availability of highly curative, all-oral, short-duration antiviral therapies, this is both a tragedy and a major public health challenge.
Increasingly, more clinicians have become aware of the need to find people who are at risk for infection and encourage them to get tested. However, a new study underscores the human consequence if we are unsuccessful.