Here You Can Read About A New Focus on Hepatitis

  The White House’s budget request to Congress included an $11 billion ask to tackle the spread of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) over the next five years.  Though it’s not a crisis that’s well-known or understood, public health efforts in the last 10 years have made strides toward prevention and treatment.  Direct-acting antivirals developed less than a decade ago have been proven effective in 95 percent of the people who take a curative pill for 8 to 12 weeks.  The challenge has been getting infected persons in for diagnosis and moving them toward treatment.  For rural communities, the rise in prevalence has been labeled epidemic and closely related to injection drug use. Data show a substantial number of people are unaware they’re infected; of those with some kind of public or private insurance, only a third are actually treated.  Left untreated, HCV can lead to liver failure, cancer, and death.  The proposed federal program includes a significant push for screening and treatment – accelerating the availability of point-of-care diagnostic tests and providing broad access to medication – with a focus on populations at greatest risk for infection: Medicaid beneficiaries, justice-involved populations, people without insurance, and American Indian and Alaska Native individuals who are treated through the Indian Health Service. Also last week: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated recommendations for hepatitis B virus screening and testing.  Considered more common than HCV, hepatitis B causes more liver-related cancer and death.