The United States Preventative Task Force recommends screening for hepatitis C virus (HCV) in persons at risk for infection and a one time screening for adults born between 1945-1965. Hepatitis C is one of several viruses that can damage the liver and can lead to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver and liver cancer. Millions of people are infected with HCV, but many don’t now about it. It is possible to have long-term HCV infection but not develop any symptoms for decades.
Hepatitis C screening involves testing a blood sample and if reactive, should be followed by a second test that determines the level of virus in the blood. When used together, these two tests accurately identify if a person has HCV. For some people, once hepatitis C infection is confirmed, there are successfully treatments with medicines to get rid of the virus. Unlike HIV, HCV is a curable disease after treatment.
In 2014, University of Chicago Medicine implemented HCV screening at the hospital and has screened over 17,000 individuals. In the past two years, we identified 907 HCV-infected individuals and of those with reactive tests, there were 553 individuals currently infected. Linkage for HCV-infected individuals have shown to be difficult (58.2%) and to aid with linkage to care, UChicago Medicine was granted this grant to work with the Hepatitis C Community Alliance to Test and Treat (HepCCATT), which not only assists in case management for those HCV-infected but also help train provdiers to treat HCV infection.
The goal of treatment is to prevent long-term damage to the liver from the infection. In the past few years, diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C infection has greatly improved. This makes it more valuable to identify the infection so that a person can start treatment, if medically-indicated. For additional information, please contact Ellen Almirol.