Hepatitis Awareness Month renews emphasis on screening, treatment
Combating the opioid epidemic also play critical role in reducing risk factors
Baltimore, MD (May 19, 2017) – May is Hepatitis Awareness Month in the United States, a time to raise awareness about the importance of screening for and treating viral hepatitis. As the opioid epidemic continues to plague Maryland and the nation as a whole, it becomes even more vital to educate the public, screen any and all vulnerable people, and treat those that test positive for the hepatitis C virus – including those inject drugs.
Hepatitis C virus is the most common chronic blood-borne viral infection in Maryland. National estimates indicate that between 73,000 and 106,000 Marylanders will become infected with hepatitis C virus in their lifetimes. Although 15 percent to 25 percent of people who become infected will clear the virus from their bodies without treatment, hepatitis C virus infection becomes chronic in 75 percent to 85 percent of cases. Complications resulting from chronic hepatitis C virus infection include cirrhosis, liver failure, and cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). Hepatitis C virus is often referred to as the “silent epidemic” because symptoms of infection may not appear for a number of years. For this reason, many people living with hepatitis C virus are unaware of their status. Fortunately, curative therapies with minimal side effects are available, making it possible to drastically reduce the epidemic.
Priority populations for testing and treatment include:
- “Baby boomers” – people born between 1945 and 1965;
- Anyone born to a mother infected with hepatitis C virus;
- Anyone who has received blood products with clotting factor before 1987;
- Anyone who has received blood transfusion or an organ transplant before July 1992;
- Anyone who has been on kidney dialysis for several years;
- Anyone with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV);
- Any health or public safety workers who have been stuck with a needle or other sharp object with blood from a person with hepatitis C virus or unknown hepatitis C virus; and
- Anyone who has injected drugs, even if only one time. Anyone who has a substance use disorder can find treatment resources by visiting MdDestinationRecovery.org or by calling 1-800-422-0009.
With the advent of legalized syringe services programming statewide, local jurisdictions working toward implementation have an extraordinary opportunity to integrate hepatitis C virus testing and linkage into their syringe services programs. As injection drug use is responsible for 75 percent of new hepatitis C virus transmissions in Maryland, syringe services programs are an important component of a comprehensive approach to prevent new infections, as well as to link people to care.
In recognition of Hepatitis Awareness Month and National Hepatitis Testing Day on May 19, Health and Mental Hygiene’s Infectious Disease Prevention and Health Services Bureau, along with its community partners, are conducting a series of activities and events to promote and encourage testing and treatment. The following is an abbreviated list of activities. Contact the individual sites for more information.
Hepatitis B Initiative of Washington, DC
Health Expo Summer Mela Community Fair
Sunday, May 28, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m
Southern Asian Seventh-day Adventist Church
2001 E Randolph Rd, Silver Spring, MD, 20904
Gospel Baptist Church-free health screenings
Sunday, May 28, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Gospel Baptist Church
7012 Muncaster Mill Rd, Derwood, MD 20855
Total Health Care
Free Hepatitis C Educational Sessions
Monday, May 22, 11:30 a.m.
1501 W. Saratoga Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21223
Free Hepatitis C Educational Sessions
Friday, May 26, 11:30 a.m.
2401 Liberty Heights Avenue, Suite 111-113
Baltimore, Maryland 21215
Contact: Chara Bauer or 410-383-8300 x20457