Category Archives: Hepatitis

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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Washington teens getting their whooping cough immunizations; HPV vaccinations lag

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From the Washington State Department of Health

Vaccination_of_girlImmunization rates for Washington teens improved for some vaccines, while holding steady for others, according to a new national study.

In 2012, 86 percent of teens aged 13–17 in our state got a Tdap booster, according to the National Immunization Survey. That’s up from 75 percent in 2011 and tops the national goal of 80 percent.

Tdap is the vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough (pertussis). The increase is welcome news following the recent whooping cough epidemic in Washington.

“We’re delighted that more teens in our state are protected against whooping cough,” said State Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes. “Older kids and teens often spread the disease to babies without knowing it. That’s why it’s so important for teens to get a dose of the Tdap vaccine.”

Over the last couple years, more teen girls are getting all three doses of the HPV vaccine, but fewer are getting the initial shot. About 43.5 percent of Washington girls 13 to 17 received the recommended three doses of the vaccine, up 3.5 percent from 2011.

Yet, only 64.5 percent of girls in the same age group got one dose of the HPV vaccine, a 2 percent decrease over the same time.

In 2012, nearly 15 percent of Washington boys aged 13–17 got the first HPV vaccine dose, up 6 percent from 2011. HPV vaccine was originally licensed only for girls and was made available to boys in October 2011.

This, plus a lack of knowledge by health care professionals and parents on the need and recommendation to vaccinate boys, may be why the rate for boys is lower than girls.

HPV vaccinations are recommended for girls and boys to protect against cervical cancer, genital warts and other types of oral and anal cancers.

Health care professionals should talk with parents about the importance of all kids getting HPV vaccinations starting at age 11 and 12. Kids in this age group have a stronger immune response compared to older kids.

“Parents want what’s best for their kids and want them to live happy, healthy lives,” Hayes said. “They can lower their children’s risk for HPV or cancer by getting them vaccinated.”

Nearly all sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. HPV is most common in people in their teens and early 20s. That’s why it’s important for kids to get vaccinated before they start having sex. The vaccine doesn’t protect against any HPV strains someone already has.

Our state’s vaccination rate for two or more doses of chickenpox vaccine rose 8 percent in 2012. The rate for one dose of meningococcal vaccine rose slightly, from 69.4 percent in 2012 to 71.2 percent in 2011.

No-cost vaccines are available to kids up to 19-years-old through health care providers who participate in the state’s Childhood Vaccine Program.

Participating health care providers may charge for the office visit and an administration fee to give the vaccine. People who can’t afford the administration fee can ask for it to be waived.

For help finding a health care provider or an immunization clinic, call your local health agency or the WithinReach Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.

 

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Tips for a less stressful shot visit – CDC

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child wincing while be given a shot injection

Making the choice to vaccinate your child is vital for their health and well-being. Even so, getting shots can still be stressful for you and your little one. Fortunately, there are simple ways you can support your child before, during, and after shots.

Before Getting Shots

Come prepared! Take these steps before your child gets a shot to help make the immunization visit less stressful on you both.

Help children see vaccines as a good thing. Never threaten your child with shots, by saying “If you misbehave I will have the nurse give you a shot.” Instead, remind children that vaccines can keep them healthy.


Ways to soothe your baby:

  • Swaddling
  • Skin-to-skin contact
  • Offering a sweet beverage, like juice (when the child is older than 6 months)
  • Breastfeeding

Your health care professional may cool or numb the injection site to reduce the pain associated with your child’s shots.

  • Read any vaccine materials you received from your child’s health care professional and write down any questions you may have.
  • Find your child’s personal immunization record and bring it to your appointment. An up-to-date record tells your doctor exactly what shots your child has already received.
  • Pack a favorite toy or book, and a blanket that your child uses regularly to comfort your child.

For older children

  • Be honest with your child. Explain that shots can pinch or sting, but that it won’t hurt for long.
  • Engage other family members, especially older siblings, to support your child.
  • Avoid telling scary stories or making threats about shots.

At the Doctor’s Office

If you have questions about immunizations, ask your child’s doctor or nurse. Before you leave the appointment, ask your child’s doctor for advice on using non-aspirin pain reliever and other steps you can take at home to comfort your child.

Try these ideas for making the shots easier on your child.

  • Distract and comfort your child by cuddling, singing, or talking softly.
  • Smile and make eye contact with your child. Let your child know that everything is ok.
  • Comfort your child with a favorite toy or book. A blanket that smells familiar will help your child feel more comfortable.
  • Hold your child firmly on your lap, whenever possible.

For older children

Remember to schedule your next visit! Staying current with your child’s immunizations provides the best protection against disease.

  • Take deep breaths with your child to help “blow out” the pain.
  • Point out interesting things in the room to help create distractions.
  • Tell or read stories.
  • Support your child if he or she cries. Never scold a child for not “being brave.”

Once your child has received all of the shots, be especially supportive. Hold, cuddle, and, for infants, breastfeed or offer a bottle. A soothing voice, combined with praise and hugs will help reassure your child that everything is ok.

Take a moment to read the Vaccine Information Sheet your health care professional gives you during your visit. This sheet has helpful information and describes possible side effects your child may experience.

After the Shots

Sometimes children experience mild reactions from vaccines, such as pain at the injection site, a rash or a fever. These reactions are normal and will soon go away. The following tips will help you identify and minimize mild side effects.

  • Review any information your doctor gives you about the shots, especially the Vaccine Information Statements or other sheets that outline which side effects might be expected.
  • Use a cool, wet cloth to reduce redness, soreness, and swelling in the place where the shot was given.
  • Reduce any fever with a cool sponge bath. If your doctor approves, give non-aspirin pain reliever.
  • Give your child lots of liquid. It’s normal for some children to eat less during the 24 hours after getting vaccines.
  • Pay extra attention to your child for a few days. If you see something that concerns you, call your doctor.
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