Health department begins
campaign against Hep C

The state Department of Health has developed a strategic plan to help fight hepatitis C, a virus that may infect up to 20,000 residents.

Peter Whiticar, chief of the department's STD/AIDS Prevention Branch, said, "Because of the similar risk factors between viral hepatitis, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, we have been working to develop a program that integrates hepatitis prevention, particularly hepatitis C, into existing public health prevention services and programs."

Karla Hays, with the STD/AIDS Branch, said the plan -- released in recognition of National Hepatitis Awareness Week, Sunday through Saturday -- addresses surveillance, education, prevention, care, and treatment of hepatitis C.

More than 5,000 positive hepatitis C tests have been reported in Hawaii since 1997, the Health Department said.

Hepatitis C testing is recommended for people who have ever injected drugs, were treated for clotting with a blood product made before 1987, received a blood transfusion or solid organ transplant before July 1992, or were ever on long-term kidney dialysis.

No vaccine is available for hepatitis C but those infected should be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B and avoid alcohol to prevent further damage to their liver, health officials said.

Those in high-risk categories without insurance may obtain services through the department by calling the Diamond Head STD clinic at 733-9281 or the HIV counselor/ testers on the neighbor islands.

For more information, call Hays at 733-9116.


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