State announces plan to eliminate hepatitis C in Missouri

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on Friday announced its plan to eliminate hepatitis C from the state.

The “Show Me the Cure” plan aims to improve access to patient-centered testing and treatment services to combat the hepatitis C virus, according to a press release.

The plan focuses on access to services, provider development, education, collaboration and outreach, monitoring, policy and advocacy, the statement said.

“(It) provides a roadmap for the state to use to eliminate hepatitis C,” Alicia Jenkins, chief of the DHSS Office for HIV, STDs and Hepatitis, said in the statement. “This plan was developed in collaboration with various partners across the state, which was critical to ensuring the needs of Missourians were considered in the plan.”

Hepatitis is a viral infection of the liver, usually caused by one of three common viruses in the United States, each with a letter designation – A, B or C.

Everyone is transmitted differently than others – hepatitis A is transmitted through close personal contact with infected people or through consumption of contaminated food or drink, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vaccines can prevent it, and there is no cure. It usually goes away within six months.

Hepatitis B is transmitted when blood, semen or other bodily fluids from a person infected with the virus enters the body of a person who is not infected. Vaccines can prevent it.

Hepatitis C is transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person. For some, according to the CDC, hepatitis C is a short-lived illness, but for more than half of those infected with it, it becomes a chronic infection. The Show Me the Cure plan reports that it can become chronic in 75-85% of cases. He can be healed.

The most common exposure to hepatitis C in the United States is from sharing needles from injection drug use. Another common transmission is birth from an infected mother.

It can also be spread through: unprotected sex; shared personal items, such as razors or toothbrushes; unregulated tattooing; rare receipt of donated blood or blood products; and needlestick injuries in health care settings.

The CDC recommends testing all pregnant women during any pregnancy and testing for hepatitis C only once for all adults.

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, dark urine, clay-colored stools, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, and jaundice. However, according to the DHSS plan, many people remain asymptomatic, even when the infection progresses to chronic disease.

The plan uses five key points: improved access to testing, improved resources for treatment providers, public education on sources of transmission, creation of a data-driven surveillance system and increased prevention. , testing and treatment through policy development.

First, to improve testing, it is crucial that access to testing is improved, according to the report. About 40 percent of patients are unaware of their hepatitis C status.

“Because (hepatitis C) often has no symptoms, the only way to know is to get tested,” the report said. “Currently there are not adequate resources available for testing and linkage to care.”

Recommended resolutions include distributing rapid test kits to local public health agencies and federally qualified health centers, increasing testing events for at-risk populations, promoting testing, building partnerships with laboratories to reduce costs and identification of a list of patient assistance programs.

Second, provider capacity needs to be improved.

“In many areas of the state, trips to promotions may be miles away or have limited availability,” the report said. “Referral to a specialist is only necessary for those caring for children with hepatitis C and patients who have certain hepatitis C-related sequelae (condition resulting from a disease) or advanced disease, including those requiring a liver transplant.”

Recommendations include the development and distribution of resource guides and tools for health care providers, training providers to implement services, engaging medical schools and training programs, treatment education for Missouri Department of Corrections staff, developing online resources for providers, and promoting programs to increase treatment for people on Medicaid.

Third, educate the public about testing and resources.

“Many people are unaware of the risks associated with hepatitis C, and it is often confused with other hepatitis viruses,” the report states.

Recommendations include providing more public data, such as geospatial maps, identifying gaps in monitoring systems, crating flyers, magnets and materials for distribution, and coordinating a statewide digital and social media public health campaign.

Fourth, create a “robust” hepatitis C surveillance system in which data can be shared.

“Through 2021, Missouri has not received surveillance funding specifically for hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a reportable disease in Missouri, and data is available,” the report said.

The fifth pillar calls on the state to increase testing and treatment services.

Missouri needs to increase prevention.

“The Missouri Viral Hepatitis Stakeholder Task Force, MO HEPC, and regional task forces across the state have a vested interest in hepatitis elimination, policy change, care to patients and the development of resources to better assist Missouri residents,” the report said. “This goal helps build a platform for organizational inventory, share resources, promote education, reduce barriers, provide technical assistance and build system capacity.”

Courtesy of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

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