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 comprehensivehepatitis C strategic planto 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 theCenters 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 foundhere.

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 websitehere. Information on the number of cases across the country can be found on the CDC’s websitehere.

David M. Higgins II

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in Digital Marketing, eventually leading him back to his passion. David started The Southern Maryland Chronicle in December 2017 and has grown it to become the #1 news source in Southern Maryland.

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