October 15, 2003
The Hawai`i State Department of Health (DOH) has developed a new
plan to tackle the nation’s most common blood borne viral
infection, hepatitis C. Since 1997, physicians and laboratories in
Hawaii have reported more than 5,000 positive hepatitis C test results.
As many as 20,000 people could be infected with hepatitis C in Hawai`i,
but since the virus does not always produce symptoms most aren’t
aware they have the disease.
During National Hepatitis Awareness Week, October 19-25, 2003, the
STD/AIDS Prevention Branch of the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) is
releasing the Hepatitis C Strategic Plan to address issues of
surveillance, education, prevention, and treatment of hepatitis C in
"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," said Peter Whiticar, Chief of the STD/AIDS Prevention
Improved treatment options for hepatitis C are now available. For
many people treatment can potentially eliminate the virus or slow
disease progression. Treatment needs to be carefully considered on an
individual basis by patient and health care provider.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends
hepatitis C testing for people who:
- have ever used injection drugs
- were treated for clotting problems with a blood product made before
- received a blood transfusion or solid organ transplant before July
- were ever on long-term kidney dialysis.
Public health officials strongly encouraged testing of high-risk
groups in order to identify those infected and prevent the spread of
the virus to others. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. However,
people with the disease can prevent further damage to their liver by
being vaccinated against hepatitis A and B and by avoiding alcohol.
Individuals needing a hepatitis C test or hepatitis A & B
vaccinations should speak with their health care provider. Those at
highest risk and without medical insurance may be able to access
services through the DOH, by calling the Diamond Head STD clinic on
Oahu at 733-9281 or DOH HIV counselor/testers on the Neighbor
More information about hepatitis prevention, call Karla Hays at the
Department of Health, STD/AIDS Branch at 808-733-9116.
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For information, contact:
STD/AIDS Prevention Branch
Laura M. Lott