May has many Health Awareness observances and one of them is Hepatitis Awareness.
Testing and treatment are key in dealing with the Hepatitis C Virus
LANSING, Mich. – More than four million Americans are infected with Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and over 50 percent of them don’t know it, which is why the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is joining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recognize May as Hepatitis Awareness Month.
HCV is a blood-borne pathogen that affects the liver. Over the course of many years, the virus can cause liver damage resulting in cirrhosis, liver cancer, and sometimes death.
In Michigan, nearly 12,000 new cases of HCV were diagnosed in 2016. However, because persons with HCV are often asymptomatic for many years, most people have never been tested or diagnosed. The only way to know you are infected is with a blood test.
While testing and treatment are the best ways to prevent the spread of hepatitis C, hepatitis A and B are both vaccine preventable diseases. The MDHHS Immunization Division stressed the importance of vaccination in their new ‘I Vaccinate’ campaign. MDHHS has also warned of the recent increase in Hepatitis A infection in Southeast Michigan.
There is no vaccine for HCV, but there are treatments that can cure HCV infection. Michigan Medicaid provides coverage for direct acting antivirals to treat HCV infection. Recently, the prior authorization criteria has been expanded to include eligible beneficiaries with a F2 level of fibrosis.
This Hepatitis Awareness Month MDHHS is encouraging residents to:
- Get hepatitis A and B vaccinations
- Talk to their health care provider about hepatitis C testing
- Explore hepatitis C treatment options
For more information about HCV, visit CDC’s Know More Hepatitis campaign at www.cdc.gov/KnowMoreHepatitis, or MDHHS’s viral hepatitis website at www.michigan.gov/hepatitis.