A $6 million grant has been awarded to Public Health – Seattle & King County to improve testing, treatment and cure of people with hepatitis C.
The four-year grant from the federal Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will fund the Hepatitis C Test & Cure Project, the public-health department announced on Tuesday. Hepatitis C infects the liver and is transmitted primarily by exposure to an infected person’s blood.
The grant will provide funding for the project to train clinicians on the diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of hepatitis C and connect them to specialists, the health department said. It will also enhance the ability to track patients who may have fallen out of treatment.
Of the 69,459 cases of chronic hepatitis C reported in Washington from 2000 to 2011, 28 percent were in King County. Populations at increased risk for hepatitis C infection include “baby boomers” born between 1945 and 1965, foreign-born individuals and injected-drug users.
Sixty to 70 percent of people with chronic hepatitis C will develop chronic liver disease, which can lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis, according to the health department. Since 2007, more people have died from hepatitis C than from HIV/AIDS, yet as few as half of the virus-infected patients are aware of their health status.
“Thousands of people in King County have chronic HCV, but many don’t know they have it,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Chief of Communicable Disease & Epidemiology at Public Health – Seattle & King County, in a news release. “This grant will allow us to make sure that patients with chronic HCV are not just identified, but also seen by a provider, receive follow-up testing, and get the care they need.”