American College of Emergency Physicians
WASHINGTON --An urban emergency department that set up a hepatitis C
testing protocol saw high rates of infection among intravenous drug
users and Baby Boomers, with three-quarters of those testing positive
unaware they were infected. The results of a screening and diagnostic
testing program for hepatitis C were reported online Tuesday in Annals of Emergency Medicine ("Results of a Rapid Hepatitis C Virus Screening and Diagnostic Testing Program in an Urban Emergency Department").
"Given skyrocketing rates of injection heroin use around the
country, we expect the already high rates of hepatitis C infection to
explode," said lead study author Douglas White, MD, of Highland
Hospital, Alameda Health System in Oakland, Calif. "Intervention by
emergency departments, in the form of screening and referral for
treatment, could help slow the spread of this potentially deadly,
Researchers tested 10 percent of emergency department patients for
hepatitis C virus (HCV), mostly but not exclusively focusing testing on
those considered high-risk, such as intravenous drug users, Baby Boomers
and patients with unspecified liver disease. Of patients tested, 10.3
percent tested positive for HCV, with 70 percent of those confirmed as
chronically infected. Only 24 percent of patients who tested positive
for the virus had prior knowledge of HCV infection.
Hepatitis C virus is the most common chronic blood-borne infection
in the U.S., affecting an estimated 3 million people and is a leading
cause of end-stage liver disease, liver cancer and liver transplants.
It is estimated that HCV prevalence in the United States among people
born between 1945 and 1965 (the "Baby Boom") is as high as 4 percent.
Baby Boomers account for 75 percent of people living with HCV infection
and as many as 1.75 million of them do not know they are infected.
"In addition to the myriad public health functions they already
perform, urban emergency departments may play an important role as
safety net providers for HCV screening," said Dr. White. "We have a
better than even chance of reaching many of the three million people who
are infected since they tend to be heavy emergency department users
already. It gives us a chance to connect these people to ongoing care at
HCV clinics or elsewhere in the health care system."
Annals of Emergency Medicine is the peer-reviewed
scientific journal for the American College of Emergency Physicians, the
national medical society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is
committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education,
research, and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has
53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the
District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency
physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.
For more information, visit http://www.acep.org.
Press Release Source: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/acoe-ues080615.php
Labels: hepatitis C on the rise