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    Researchers: Hepatitis C virus control needs a public health approach

    A public health approach is necessary to identify and treat hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected individuals and prevent new infections, according to a new study.

    “We believe that the success of public health interventions, such as those for tuberculosis, can be translated to HCV infection,” lead author Fabienne Laraque, MD, MPH, medical director of the New York City Department of Homeless Services/Department of Social Services, told Medical Economics.

    The researchers published their in June 2017, American Journal of Public Health.

    In the U.S., HCV transmission primarily occurs through needle sharing and other illicit drug use. However, “screening for HCV infection using risk behaviors such as drug use is inadequate for identifying the majority of patients because of provider reluctance to ask about risky behaviors and patient lack of recall or fear of stigma,” said Laraque.

    HCV infection could be eliminated with a concerted public health effort and liberal access to the latest treatments, according to the researchers. Successful treatment of HCV infection results in lifelong cure, decreases the risk of associated liver diseases, decreases liver-related and all-cause mortality and reduces costs to the healthcare system, she said.

    The current New York City strategy has led to improvements in the treatment and cure of HCV-infected patients. The city has instituted an HCV surveillance system from laboratory reports in real time that includes patient identifiers. Surveillance data showed that more than 40% of patients did not undergo confirmatory RNA testing after a positive antibody screening test. “We worked with providers to increase the proportion of patients tested and with commercial clinical laboratories to promote reflex RNA testing,” said Laraque.

    Next: HCV screening makes a difference

     

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