Health officials prepare for Hepatitis C Outreach Day

May. 08, 2013 @ 06:01 PM

The Durham County Department of Public Health is teaming up with organizations throughout the county to offer Hepatitis C testing and education on May 20.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 75 percent of adults with Hepatitis C are baby boomers and most of them don’t know they are infected. Baby boomers are people born from 1945 through 1965. 

The Durham County Department of Public Health recently received a grant from the CDC to increase the number of people who are aware of their Hepatitis C status by offering testing to high-risk groups disproportionally affected by the disease in Durham.  Another goal of the project is to increase the number of Hepatitis C-infected persons who receive preventive services, such as education and vaccination for other hepatitis viruses, and medical services for their Hepatitis C infection including antiviral therapy.  

Currently, there is no vaccine available for Hepatitis C. 

Hepatitis C is a liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus and is primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person. The disease can cause serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death. Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and the leading cause of liver transplants. 

The reason that baby boomers have the highest rates of Hepatitis C is not completely understood. Most boomers are believed to have become infected in the 1970s and 1980s when rates of Hepatitis C were highest.  

Many baby boomers could have gotten infected from contaminated blood and blood products before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992 and universal precautions were adopted. Others may have been infected from injecting drugs, even if only once in the past.   

Since chronic Hepatitis C can go unnoticed for up to several decades, baby boomers could be living with an infection that occurred many years ago. 

Still, many baby boomers do not know how or when they were infected. 

“We are trying to increase testing for Hepatitis C and to connect individuals identified with active infection to medical care,” said Arlene Sena, the Durham health department’s medical director. “Ultimately, we hope that we are able to make a long-term impact in the community.” 

Health officials will provide testing for Hepatitis C and other infections in a mobile health van at the Wellons Village shopping center at 1001 N. Miami Blvd. in Durham from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 20.

Testing is also available at the health department’s Adult Health Clinic on a walk-in-basis Monday to Thursday from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and again from 1 to 3 p.m.

For information about Hepatitis C testing and prevention activities in Durham, contact Alison Hilton at 919-560-7625.