CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News UpdateNEW YORK: Officials Wage War Against Hepatitis C
By Erin Billups
November 4, 2013
NY1.com (New York City) (11.04.2013)
NY1 recently reported that new legislation and healthcare initiatives designed to prevent deaths from hepatitis C-related liver disease among baby boomers now are underway in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law that would require healthcare providers to test people born between 1945 and 1965 for hepatitis C, beginning January 1, 2014. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene also launched an initiative to educate baby boomers and physicians and to build hepatitis C testing prompts into medical records systems. CDC estimated that 75 percent of people dying from hepatitis C were baby boomers.
Dr. Ype De Jong, assistant professor of medicine at the Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University and attending physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Cornell Campus, stated that many hepatitis C-infected people were unaware of their infection because hepatitis C often caused few symptoms for many years. He attributed most of his patients’ hepatitis C infections to unscreened blood transfusions or intravenous drug use. Many others who had no hepatitis C risk factors still could have the virus. In all, De Jong estimated that 150,000 New Yorkers had hepatitis C. In 2012, 750 New York City residents died of hepatitis C. Deputy City Health Commissioner Dr. Jay Varma estimated that without hepatitis C testing, 10,000–20,000 more residents could die from the virus throughout the next 15 years.
De Jong expected treatments in pill form to be available within the next two years. The new drugs would be more effective in curing hepatitis C and would eliminate the debilitating side effects of interferon injections currently used to treat the virus. Barriers to hepatitis C screening and treatment included a shortage of physicians with hepatitis C expertise and challenges in communicating hepatitis C danger to people who have no symptoms.