Maryland Department of Health promotes Hepatitis C Awareness Month; stresses expanded treatment now available

Statewide strategic plan focuses on prevention, testing, treatment and surveillance 

News Release, Maryland Department of Health

Baltimore, MD — May is Hepatitis C Awareness Month. The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) has created a comprehensive hepatitis C strategic plan to work toward the elimination of hepatitis C as a public health threat. The plan focuses on prevention and education, testing, treatment and enhancing disease surveillance.

“Almost half of people living with hepatitis C in the United States do not know they have it,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall. “The Department and the Hogan administration are committed to raising awareness about hepatitis C in order to identify individuals who need treatment and ensure treatment options are available. This also greatly enhances our goal of eliminating the spread of this disease.” 

Hep C is a highly contagious, but curable, infection that attacks the liver. Hep C is transmitted through contact with infected blood or bodily fluids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 percent of the U.S. adult population, or nearly 2.4 million individuals, are living with a hep C infection. Many people living with hep C have no signs or symptoms of their infection. However, complications of chronic hep C infection are serious and include liver damage, liver failure, cancer and death. 

MDH will devote additional funding to this effort in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget to expand hep C treatment availability to all Medicaid recipients, regardless of their liver fibrosis score. Medicaid estimates that an additional 1,300 to 1,600 people with chronic hep C will be able to access treatment each year. Expanding the number of people who can access treatment will also cut down on the spread of hep C, lowering the total number of new cases per year.

MDH encourages everyone to know their hep C status. Many local health departments and partners offer free hep C testing and resources throughout the state during May. A full list of those sites and dates can be found here.

The CDC recommends testing for people who:

  • were born between 1945 through 1965
  • have injected drugs, even once
  • were born to a mother with hep C
  • received blood products with clotting factor before 1987
  • received blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
  • have been on long-term hemodialysis
  • have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

Additional information about hep C can be found on the MDH’s website here. Information on the number of cases across the country can be found on the CDC’s website here.