An Emerging Epidemic: The Public Health Response to Hepatitis C Infection among Young People who Inject Drugs

By Oscar Mairena, Manager, Viral Hepatitis/Policy and Legislative Affairs

Panelists at the NASTAD and Harm Reduction Coalition Congressional Briefing.

Panelists at the NASTAD and Harm Reduction Coalition Congressional Briefing.

Last year, the Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator (VHPC) in Massachusetts, Dan Church, wrote a post about the increasing rate of acute hepatitis C (HCV) infection among young persons who inject drugs in Massachusetts and the health department’s efforts to prevent new infections, identify existing cases, educate individuals vulnerable to acquisition, and enhance surveillance and data collection to better address the epidemic. Since then, more health departments have reported this trend, especially among young persons who begin using prescription opioids and transition to injecting heroin. Earlier this week, NASTAD partnered with the Harm Reduction Coalition to host a Congressional Briefing, An Emerging Epidemic: The Public Health Response to Hepatitis C Infection among Young People who Use Drugs, to bring this issue to light, educate Congressional staff and reinforce the role of public health in addressing emerging health concerns. Continue reading

How Health Departments Are Addressing the Viral Hepatitis Epidemic in the U.S.

By Maria Courogen, Director of the Office of Infectious Disease, Washington State Department of Health

Maria Courogen

Maria Courogen, Washington State AIDS Director, speaking at the launch of the updated Viral Hepatitis Action Plan.

In my role in Washington State, I oversee the state health department’s work in the areas of HIV, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), tuberculosis and viral hepatitis. In my role as a member of NASTAD’s Executive Committee and Chair-Elect, I work with state health department colleagues across the country, many of whom have a similar portfolio of work, to provide leadership in the country’s response to HIV and hepatitis. As such, On April 3, I participated in an event hosted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the release of the next iteration of the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan.

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Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinators Convene in DC

By Ronald Valdiserri, M.D., M.P.H., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, and Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Cross-posted from AIDS.gov

Drs. Ron Valdiserri, Ellie McCance-Katz, and John Ward dicussing federal viral hepatitis initiatives with Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinators from across the country.

Drs. Ron Valdiserri, Ellie McCance-Katz, and John Ward dicussing federal viral hepatitis initiatives with Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinators from across the country.

Last week I had the opportunity to discuss the federal response to viral hepatitis with some of our key allies in the states: the CDC-funded Adult Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinators who had assembled in Washington, DC for the third National Hepatitis Technical Assistance meeting organized and hosted by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD). Continue reading

Ending Viral Hepatitis: Policy Recommendations to End the Silent Epidemic

By Oscar Mairena, Manager, Viral Hepatitis/Policy & Legislative Affairs, NASTAD

NASTAD Viral Hepatitis Policy AgendaHealth departments are at the forefront of our nation’s efforts to prevent new infections and create systems of care for people living with chronic viral hepatitis. Health departments, however, are at a critical transition point as implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues and more effective treatments for hepatitis C virus (HCV) come to market – a transition that requires federal investment in national and state-specific public health infrastructure in order to meet the changing needs of people living with and at-risk of viral hepatitis.

Today, on the first day of the biannual National Viral Hepatitis Technical Assistance Meeting, NASTAD is releasing a policy agenda to combat viral hepatitis in the U.S. The policy agenda, Breaking the Silence on an Epidemic: Policy Recommendations to End Viral Hepatitis, provides recommendations for policymakers to better equip state and local health departments to provide the basic, core public health services to combat viral hepatitis; increase surveillance, testing and education efforts nationwide; and effectively reach the goals set by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other Viral Hepatitis Interagency Working Group members, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Continue reading

Hepatitis C Infection among Young Injection Drug Users

By Dan Church, Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Hepatitis CIn the last year, focus has been on the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation for a one-time hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibody test for all individuals born between 1945 and 1965. While this is important given recent trends in HCV-related mortality in this age cohort, there has been less attention on the need to continue risk-based screening due to the alarming trends of increased HCV transmission among young people who use drugs. This increase has been noted in a number of jurisdictions, including in Massachusetts, where the annual number of reported HCV infections among those 15 to 29 years of age has now exceeded those in the older age cohort. While the number of identified, confirmed acute HCV cases remains low, almost 2,000 cases of HCV infection have been reported each year in this younger age group since 2007 in Massachusetts alone. Most of these cases were likely exposed in the recent past, and surveillance data indicate that the injection of prescription opiates and heroin are driving this epidemic. Continue reading