Category Archives: Hepatitis

County receives $6m grant to improve hepatitis C care

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Hepatitis C by the numbersKing County has received a four-year, $6 million grant to improve testing, treatment and cure rates of people with chronic HCV infection.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects large numbers of people in King County, but it often goes unnoticed until it’s too late.

“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. “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.”

The grant will fund the Hepatitis C Test & Cure Project, which will provide training for clinicians on the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of HCV and connect them to specialists. Continue reading

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Immunization rates for Washington kids improve over last year

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From the Washington State Department of Health

child wincing while be given a shot injectionImmunization rates for Washington toddlers have improved from last year, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Immunization Survey.

The survey says 71 percent of kids under three years old in Washington got a series of recommended vaccines in 2013.

The state’s rate for the same series of vaccines in 2012 was 65 percent.

Pertussis vaccination still low and concerning in light of recent epidemic

Although rates have improved, they’re still below the Healthy People 2020 goal of 80 percent, leaving many kids unprotected.

For all vaccines counted, rates increased across the board except for DTaP, the vaccine that prevents pertussis (whooping cough).

This is especially concerning because of our state’s whooping cough epidemic in 2012. Continue reading

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New shellfish safety map shows risks in real-time

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From the Washington State Department of Health

shellfish mapA new online shellfish safety map gives shellfish harvesters an up-to-date look at biotoxins, pollution, and bacteria levels at public beaches or on their private property.

Beach names, nearby landmarks, and specific addresses are searchable to help provide real-time information on shellfish safety risks.

The new shellfish safety map was developed to provide current information about areas where water quality conditions and public health risks are evaluated by the Department of Health. Continue reading

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New hepatitis C treatments – FDA Consumer Update

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fda-logo-thumbnailFrom the US Food and Drug Administration

At the approval of several new drugs for hepatitis C is  welcome news for baby boomers—who make up three of four adults with the hepatitis C virus—and millions of other Americans, many of whom don’t yet know they are infected and carriers, says the US Food and Drug Administration in this Consumer Update.

Hepatitis C can be cured, and today’s drug therapies are very effective and easier for patients to take, says Jeffrey S. Murray, M.D., the deputy director of the Division of Antiviral Products in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Murray is an internist who specializes in infectious diseases.

A Preventable and Curable Disease

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Grilling tips from the Department of Health

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State officials advise: be known for great grilling, not making people sick

Photo by Michal Zacharzewski

Photo by Michal Zacharzewski

Food safety experts from the Department of Health want people to know how to protect themselves and their loved ones from foodborne illnesses, especially when preparing foods for picnics and barbecues during warm weather.

“Bacteria in or on food can multiply quickly in warm weather,” explains State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “By making sure food is prepared, cooked, and served properly you can reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and be well-known for great barbecues and picnics instead of for making people sick.”

Safeguards can be taken when preparing foods to be eaten outdoors, such as using a food thermometer to make sure that meat and poultry are cooked at the correct temperature. Continue reading

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Know your hepatitis ABCs for Hepatitis Awareness Month – CDC

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From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Graphic: Millions of Americans are living with viral hepatitis.

  • Hepatitis A: Outbreaks in the US do occur.
  • Hepatitis B: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have higher rates.
  • Hepatitis C: New treatments can cure the disease.

Viral hepatitis is a major global health threat and affects over 4.4 million Americans. In observance of May as Hepatitis Awareness Month, here are brief overviews of each of the three most common types of viral hepatitis in the United States: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis A: Outbreaks in the US can and do occur

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Q: Are insurers required to cover HIV prevention medication Truvada?

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Q. Now that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a daily pill to prevent infection with the virus that causes AIDS, will my insurer be required to cover the drug at no cost to me?

A. No, it won’t be required, not at this time. Earlier this month the CDC released new clinical guidelines recommending that people who are at substantial risk of becoming infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, take a daily pill called Truvada. This “pre-exposure prophylaxis” approach can prevent HIV infection in more than 90 percent of cases. Continue reading

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National strategy needed to eliminate hepatitis C

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Hepatitis CBy Michael Ollove
Stateline Staff Writer
May 19, 2014

The U.S. is in the midst of a hepatitis C epidemic with as many as 3.9 million Americans infected with the liver-damaging virus.

Aggressively targeting a concentrated population with the contagious but curable disease could be the best approach to eradicating the deadly virus.

The most logical place to launch the counterattack is in the country’s jails and prisons, where the infection rate is about 17 percent, compared to 1 percent to 2 percent overall in the U.S., said Josiah Rich, a Brown University infectious disease physician.

A recent study estimated that 1.86 million people with the virus were incarcerated.

“With more than 10 million Americans cycling in and out of prisons and jails each year, including nearly one of every three HCV (hepatitis C)-infected people,” Rich said, “the criminal justice system may be the best place to efficiently identify and cure the greatest number of HCV-infected people.” Continue reading

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Medicare struggling with high-cost hepatitis-C drugs

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Walter Bianco, 65, at his Arizona home, has had hepatitis-C for more than 40 years. (Photo by Alexandra Olgin/KHN)

Walter Bianco, 65, at his Arizona home, has had hepatitis-C for more than 40 years. (Photo by Alexandra Olgin/KHN)

By Richard Knox
MAY 12, 2014

This KHN story was produced in collaboration with NPR

Walter Bianco has had hepatitis-C for 40 years, and his time is running out.

“The liver is at the stage next to becoming cirrhotic,” the 65-year-old Arizona contractor says. Cirrhosis is severe scarring, whether from alcoholism or a chronic viral infection. It’s a fateful step closer to liver failure or liver cancer.

If he develops one of these complications, the only possible solution would be a hard-to-get liver transplant. “The alternative,” Bianco says, “is death.”

Previous drug treatments didn’t clear the virus from Bianco’s system. But it’s almost certain that potent new drugs for hep-C could cure him.

However, the private insurer that handles his medication coverage for the federal Medicare program has twice refused to pay for the drugs his doctor has prescribed.

Doctors are seeing more and more patients approaching the end-stage of hep-C infection. “There isn’t day that goes by when I don’t have a story very similar to Mr. Bianco’s,” says Dr. Hugo Vargas of Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ, his liver specialist. Continue reading

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Who should get pricey hepatitis C drugs?

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 This KHN story was produced in collaboration with wapo

Simple math illustrates the challenge facing U.S. taxpayers, consumers and insurers following the launch late last year of two expensive new drugs to treat hepatitis C.

If all 3 million people estimated to be infected with the virus in America are treated at an average cost of $100,000 each, the amount the U.S. spends on prescription drugs would double, from about $300 billion in one year to more than $600 billion.

That prospect has inspired an unusually blunt public debate:  Should expensive treatments – one new drug costs $1,000 a pill — be limited only to the sickest patients, or is it appropriate to treat all who want the drugs immediately? And should those in taxpayer-funded programs have the same access? Continue reading

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High-cost hepatitis C treatments hits big insurer

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$100-dollar bill inside a capsuleBy Jay Hancock
KHN

UnitedHealth Group spent $100 million on hepatitis C drugs in the first three months of the year, much more than expected, the company said Thursday.

The news helped drive down the biggest insurance company’s stock and underscores the challenge for all health care payers in covering Sovaldi, an expensive new pill for hepatitis C.

“We’ve been surprised on the volume — the pent-up demand across all three businesses” — commercial insurance and private Medicare and Medicaid plans, said Daniel Schumacher, chief financial officer of UnitedHealth’s insurance wing. Continue reading

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Should prisoners get expensive hepatitis C drugs?

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Dollar bill inside a capsuleBy Michael Ollove
Stateline Staff Writer

Mar 25, 2014

If used widely, a new generation of antiviral drugs has the potential to wipe out the deadly hepatitis C virus in the United States. But the high price of the drugs might prevent their use in prisons, which house as many as one-third of those who are infected.

The drugs cost anywhere from about $65,000 to $170,000 for a single course of treatment—between three and nine times more than earlier treatments.

Ronald Shansky, former medical director of the Illinois prison system and founder of the Society of Correctional Physicians, described that price as “extortionarily high, criminal.” Continue reading

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There’s a life-saving hepatitis C drug. But you may not be able to afford it.

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Sovaldi logoBy Julie Appleby
KHN Staff Writer

MAR 03, 2014

This KHN story was produced in collaboration with 

There’s a new drug regimen being touted as a potential cure for a dangerous liver virus that causes hepatitis C.  But it costs $84,000 — or $1,000 a pill.

And that price tag is prompting outrage from some consumers and a scramble by insurers to figure out which patients should get the drug —and who pays for it.

Called Sovaldi, the drug is made by California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. and is the latest in handful of new treatments for hepatitis C, a chronic infection that afflicts at least 3 million Americans and is a leading cause of liver failure. It was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in December. Continue reading

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Will new hepatitis C drugs bust state budgets?

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OlysioBy Michael Ollove
Stateline Staff Writer

Two new medications to treat the deadly epidemic of hepatitis C promise millions of Americans a better chance of a cure, shorter periods of treatment and fewer side effects than older drugs. They also threaten to bust state budgets and raise private insurance rates. Continue reading

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Snohomish to offer free HIV tests for eligible gay & bisexual men, Oct. 1

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aids-ribbonIn support of National Gay Men’s HIV Awareness Day, the Snohomish Health District will host a free evening of information and testing from 4-7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 1 in Suite 108 at the Rucker Building, 3020 Rucker Ave., Everett, Wash.

The event is directed to gay and bisexual men who are at risk for HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. No appointment needed. The event includes door prizes and light refreshments, and every man screened will receive a financial incentive.

Snohomish County currently ranks third in the state for new HIV cases, following King and Pierce counties. Recent data show that 58 percent of all new HIV cases in Washington State are among men who have sex with other men (MSM). Gay and bisexual men make up less than 10 percent of the population, but account for almost 60 percent of the burden of HIV disease.

The Health District also will offer free testing to qualified men for Hepatitis C and syphilis, and vaccine for Hepatitis A and B. Both the Hepatitis C and HIV tests are “rapid” antibody tests, requiring only a drop of blood pricked from a finger.

Test results will be available within 30 minutes. The tests are anonymous and confidential.

New prevention tool: Pre-exposure prophylaxis –PrEP

Information about a new HIV prevention tool will be shared by Michael Louella, outreach coordinator for the AIDS Clinical Trial Unit in Seattle.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is when HIV-negative individuals take a pill to prevent HIV infection.

The medicine currently is used to treat HIV, and has now been approved for this treatment by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration.

Research studies show that PrEP can lower the risk of HIV transmission when used with other prevention measures, such as condoms.

For more information about HIV testing and risk, please call David Bayless, 425.339.5238.

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