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Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez Urges New Yorkers Who May Be Chronically Infected with Hepatitis (HCV) to Get Tested

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Jannette Rondó, 518-457-8299

May 3, 2013

Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez Urges New Yorkers Who May Be Chronically Infected with Hepatitis (HCV)
to Get Tested

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month

The month of May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s) Division of Viral Hepatitis is leading a national education initiative called Know More Hepatitis. The initiative aims to decrease the burden of chronic viral hepatitis by increasing awareness about this hidden epidemic and encouraging people who may be chronically infected to get tested and treated.

Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) was first discovered in 1989. Risk factors for becoming infected with this virus include blood transfer from an infected person, IV drug use, tattooing, body piercing, blood transfusion before 1990 and unsafe sexual practices. Usually there are no marked signs of the acute infection, though one can experience fatigue, upper abdominal discomfort, loss of appetite, painful joint and possible jaundice. HCV can be a progressive disease and can be asymptomatic. Eighty-five percent of the patients who acquire the acute infection go on to a chronic form of the disease. Of this number, approximately 15-20% could develop cirrhosis.

An estimated 145,000 New Yorkers are currently infected with HCV. Many New Yorkers with HCV remain undiagnosed, and one-third of those with a positive HCV antibody test have not had a confirmatory HCV RNA test. In addition, many people diagnosed with HCV also do not receive appropriate counseling, education, and vaccinations.

“We know that symptoms of hepatitis can take decades to manifest, so many people who are infected with hepatitis are unaware that they have the disease and do not seek treatment, said Commissioner González-Sánchez, “However, treatment is improving significantly and sustained viral responses can be obtained. For many of these people, substance use will be a major factor that contributes to or worsens their hepatitis-related outcomes.”

Screening & Counseling Recommendations

  • All patients should be tested for HCV antibodies and receive their test results on a timely basis, with documentation they received their test results in their patient record. Patients who test negative but have ongoing risk (e.g. positive toxicology results) should be tested during annual health exams.
  • All patients who test positive for HCV antibodies should be offered an HCV viral load test in order to determine whether they have chronic infection.
  • Brief post-test HCV counseling should be made available to all patients. Those who test positive for HCV antibodies should be counseled about the need for further evaluation, basic health information and the availability of effective HCV treatment. Those who test negative should be counseled on risk reduction and prevention strategies.

In recognition of Hepatitis Awareness Month, May 19th will be the second national Hepatitis Testing Day. It is a day for people at risk to be tested, and for health care providers to educate patients about chronic viral hepatitis and testing. Millions of Americans have chronic hepatitis; most of them do not know they are infected. To locate Hepatitis Testing Year Round Near You and additional services including vaccines and treatment go to: NPIN Organizations Database.

And for all New Yorkers struggling with an addiction—or whose loved ones are struggling—help and hope are available. The state's toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day a week HOPEline, 1-877-8-HOPENY, is staffed by trained clinicians who are ready to answer questions, offer treatment referrals, and provide other vital resources to facilitate that first step into recovery.

For more information, please visit www.oasas.ny.gov.

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