Categorized | Advocate News, Opinion

Medical: How Chronic Hepatitis C (HCV) is Impacting Our Veterans

Posted on 14 November 2016 by Howard Copelan

How Chronic Hepatitis C (HCV) is Impacting Our Veterans

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  Did you know that veterans are three times as likely to be infected with chronic Hepatitis C (HCV) than the general population? This is largely due to an increased risk of blood exposure in combat. I’m calling this out to you to ask for help in getting vets to seek help for their medical conditions.

With chronic HCV, this continues to be a challenge as a number of vets with the virus remain undiagnosed; most of these veterans were likely infected during the Vietnam War.

The VA is now treating veterans with chronic HCV regardless of the stage of the patient’s liver disease. However, more screening, diagnosis and treatment is needed. Of veterans receiving care from the VA, an estimated 700K+ vets born between 1945-1965 still need to be screened and only about 170K have been receiving treatment via the VA.

How Chronic Hepatitis C (HCV) is Impacting Our Veterans

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CHRONIC HCV INFECTION:

Is an infection that affects the liver

·         3.5 million people in the United States with chronic HCV infection

·         5X more likely for baby boomers (born between 1945-1965) to have chronic HCV infection vs. general population

Can be spread through any contact with infected blood

·         Risk factors can include: receiving infected blood/blood products (especially before 1992), receiving body piercings/tattoos with non-sterile instruments, current/past injection drug use, HIV infection

·         Often no symptoms, but when symptoms occur they may include: fever, feeling tired, lack of appetite, upset stomach, jaundice and joint pain

Can lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer

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VETERANS:

Are three times as likely to be infected with chronic HCV vs. the general population

Most veterans with chronic HCV were likely infected during the Vietnam War era

May be at an increased risk of having chronic HCV due to:

• Blood exposure in combat

• Immunization

Need more screening, diagnosis and treatment:

Approximately 900K+ veterans born between 1945-1965 still need to be screened, according to one estimate. Addressing the needs of veterans with chronic HCV is a challenge as a number of veterans with the virus remain undiagnosed. Despite the availability of highly effective treatments, the VA estimates that only 1 in 4 veterans have been treated with these regimens over the past two years.

  The VA is now treating all veterans enrolled in VA with chronic HCV regardless of the stage of the patient’s liver disease

IF YOU ARE A VETERAN:

• You should  consult with a healthcare professional to learn more about your personal risk factors, screening and treatment for chronic HCV

For additional resources, please visit:

Veterans Health Administration website: http://www.hepatitis.va.gov/patient/hcv/index.asp

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/            

Start a conversation today about risk factors for chronic HCV and encourage him/her to talk to a healthcare professional.

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