To add to that, the Hepatitis C treatment should begin as early as possible, and a 12-week course of the drug, Harvoni, costs about $94,500.
And if you were born between 1945 and 1965, you should automatically get tested for Hepatitis C, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of people who are infected might not know it because they are not clinically ill, but the disease could result in serious consequences, including death.
There are actually five forms of Hepatitis—A through E—but B and C are the ones making headlines in West Virginia.
In 2016, 267 cases of acute Hepatitis B were identified in the state, only five fewer cases than in 2015, which saw 272 cases.
What’s more, West Virginia has consecutively reported the highest incidence of acute Hepatitis B in the United States from 2007-2015, at 14 times the national average.
The state also reports the highest incident rate for acute Hepatitis C, with 131 cases in 2016, 7.1 cases per 100,000 residents. West Virginia’s rate has increased significantly since 2010, fueled at least in part by the opioid crisis that has hit the state hard. The number of 2017 cases has not yet been tallied or released by the state.
Because of this high rate of hepatitis, Sue McKenrick, a lecturer at the WVU School of Nursing whose credentials include a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP-BC), established the Hepatitis Clinic, which takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Fridays at the Monongalia County Health Department.
McKenrick and colleague Kendra Barker, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) as well as an APRN and FNP-BC, are available during that time to meet with people who either have been diagnosed with Hepatitis or who want to be tested. Testing takes place during the health department’s Wednesday afternoon STD clinics, by appointment, by calling 304-598-5119.
The testing is free, as are the services at the Hepatitis Clinic. If additional testing is required after the initial diagnostics, there could be a charge. McKenrick or Barker also can make referrals to doctors and other health care providers as needed.
But that’s not all they do. There are several ways to get Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Some of these methods are from blood transfusions and organ transplants that occurred before 1992, or from sharing a toothbrush or razor with an infected person, or if a woman with Hepatitis C gives birth to a baby.
Other ways to get Hepatitis B or C are from unprotected sex with an infected partner and sharing needles while using drugs.
While McKenrick and Barker can go to bat for all their patients to get the price of the Hepatitis C treatment reduced, they also want to make sure that each patient is ready for the medication.
And while Hepatitis B isn’t curable, its symptoms can be managed, and McKenrick and Barker can help with that.
So if you were born between 1945 and 1965 and have never been tested for Hepatitis C, call MCHD Clinical Services at 304-598-5119. You might want to consider getting the Hepatitis B vaccine. The three-shot Hepatitis B vaccine can be given to babies starting at birth and finishing between 6 and 18 months of age. It’s available at MCHD by appointment, also by calling 304-598-5119.
There is a long list of recommendations of adults who should get the vaccine, including people who have sex with someone with Hepatitis B, men who have unprotected sex with men, injectable drug users, anyone with HIV or with diabetes who is under the age of 60, or a prisoner in a correctional facility. A full list of those who should consider getting the Hepatitis B vaccine can be found at this CDC website. The CDC website also a good resource for all Hepatitis information as well.
And if you are diagnosed with Hepatitis, make an appointment to see McKenrick or Barker during the Friday Hepatitis Clinic. You can do that, of course, by calling 304-598-5119.