State Effort to Treat Hepatitis-C Could Fall Short with Increase in CNY Cases

Aug 1, 2018

Needles are one way Hepatitis C infections are growing in number. Health officials do not think increased state efforts are enough to stop the disease.
Credit http://ncurbansurvivorunion.org/

One local healthcare expert says New York State is doing a great job decreasing the H-I-V infection rate, but he believes the Governor’s new $5-million plan to eradicate Hepatitis-C won’t be enough.  


The Executive Director of A-C-R Health Wil Murtaugh appreciates the funding on the way to Central New York because the region has seen a 55-percent increase in hepatitis cases since 2012 … the highest Upstate.  He feels women considering pregnancy need to be aware now, more than ever.

“I’m a little concerned about mothers.  Once you’re pregnant, you cannot be treated for Hep-C if you happen to have it and you will give it to your baby.  We are also worried about people that may have Hep-C, get treated, get cured, but then go back to use drugs again and get infected again.  And insurance companies, we’re hearing they weren’t paying the second time.”

Murtaugh adds that he’s unsure if the Governor’s strategy would cover those individuals.  As needle use for drugs like heroin continues to rise from the opioid crisis, he says that’s caused a boom in Hep-C infections.  A-C-R currently offers a syringe-exchange program.

“We have people come to us for syringes that are indigent diabetics, hormone users, steroid injectors and also drug users.  We really encourage all those things to use a needle only once because I’ve always said that using a needle is the most direct way to get either of these diseases into your body.” 

Previous Hepatitis-C awareness campaigns have focused on reaching ‘Baby Boomers’.  Now there’s been a shift to a younger generation that’s feeling the impact.

Wil Murtaugh with ACR Health is seeing a surge in cases of Hep-C among younger people, not typically the group associated with the disease.

“From 2004 to 2014 Hepatitis-C has increased 400% among people 18-29.  That’s incredible.  We’re seeing it here and I know that as we start to increase our Hep-C testing, we’re going to see even more.”

Murtaugh is hopeful more people will receive treatment under the new state initiative.  Governor Cuomo plans to expand prevention, screening and treatment services for Hep-C.  

A-C-R Health currently has eight different treatment programs across nine counties.  Infomration can be found on their website ACRHealth.org

ACR HEALTH HEP-C RISK FACTORS 

  • Were born from 1945 through 1965 (note: age not always a factor with more cases among younger poplulation).
  • Have ever used a syringe to inject drugs, even if once and long ago
  • Have ever shared injection equipment (e.g. cottons, water, cookers) with other users
  • Had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
  • Have tattoos or body piercings in non-regulated settings
  • Have HIV infection
  • Had contact with hepatitis-C positive blood
  • Have ever snorted drugs or shared equipment
  • Have liver disease or abnormal liver function test
  • Have had a sexual partner with Hepatitis C, now or in the past
  • Are a Vietnam-era Veteran
  • Have hemophilia and received clotting factor before 1987
  • Have had 10 or more sexual partners