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Organizations from across Kentucky hold strategic planning meeting on elimination of hepatitis C

Kentucky’s Department for Public Health hosted a statewide Hepatitis C (HCV) elimination meeting Monday.

Staff from the state’s local health departments, universities, hospitals, corrections departments, behavioral health facilities, private providers, and other groups attended the strategic planning meeting.

Kentucky leads the nation in both acute and chronic cases of Hepatitis C. HCV is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation, sometimes leading to serious liver damage, cancer, and death. It is spread through contaminated blood.

“More than 43,000 Kentuckians are currently living with Hepatitis C. The detrimental effects, including negative health implications, lack of productivity, and cost due to this disease, are enormous,” said Dr. Jeffrey Howard, Commissioner of Kentucky’s Department for Public Health. “This is why this effort is so important. DPH is organizing the state’s leaders in HCV treatment in order to develop a comprehensive and statewide strategy to eliminate Hepatitis C.”

Intravenous drug use is a large contributor to cases of HCV. Over the past 10 years Kentucky’s incidence rate has been as high as 5 times the national average. Preliminary information from 2019 shows the rate of disease is higher in parts of eastern and northern Kentucky.

Mechanisms are in place to gather more accurate and timely data regarding HCV, using the Kentucky Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and electronic laboratory reporting.

“We are confident that through developing a statewide strategic plan that orients all of our partners towards eliminating HCV from our state, we can make great strides in ending the HCV epidemic in our state,” said Dr. Howard.

Current, relevant data is necessary to understand the burden of disease for improved allocation of funding and to prioritize areas in need.

Additional information is available at chfs.ky.gov.

From Cabinet for Health and Family Services

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