The Florida Department of Health in Flagler County is joining other health-related organizations throughout the world in recognizing World Hepatitis Day on Sunday (July 28). The intent of the annual observance is to increase the awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis as a major global health threat as 240 million people living with chronic hepatitis B and up to 150 million people living with chronic hepatitis C.
Locally, the Flagler Health Department in Bunnell has renewed its commitment to diagnosing and treating Hepatitis after receiving grant for Hepatitis C treatment and clinic expansion. As a result, chronic Hepatitis C screening and treatment services are being offered in partnership with Flagler Cares and funding partner United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties.
“Over the last decade, we’ve witnessed miraculous developments in terms of new and highly effective medications for hepatitis C,” said DOH Flagler’s Medical Director Stephen Bickel, a physician. “The cure rate is much higher these days and efforts have been made to reduce barriers for getting treatment, like cost. Our health department is committed to bringing these curative treatments to as many patients as possible regardless of their ability to pay.”
Hepatitis is characterized by inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common types of viral hepatitis in the United States. Symptoms of hepatitis, if they are present, include nausea, fever, weakness, loss of appetite and jaundice. Hepatitis A is transmitted by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated with human waste (feces). Hepatitis B is spread through contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person. Hepatitis C is usually spread through contact with blood containing the virus. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C (HCV).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 3.5 to 5.3 million Americans are living with chronic viral hepatitis – hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Most individuals living with viral hepatitis do not know that they are infected. Since many people living with viral hepatitis do not know they have it and 1.4 million people die from the disease each year, the World Health Organization made hepatitis education, prevention and treatment one of its eight priority global health campaigns.
In Flagler, the rate of chronic hepatitis C has been rising almost every year since 2001, from a nominal rate to a rate of 127 per 100,000 in 2016, and 102 in 2017. The rate in the state is 128 per 100,000.
Rates of acute hepatitis in Flagler had fallen steadily through the 2000s, bottoming out at just over 2 per 100,000, but have been rising again yearly since 2011 and now stand at 7 per 100,000–roughly equal to the state’s rate.
To take the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Viral Hepatitis Risk Assessment please go here. For more information check out the CDC fact sheet on Hep A, B and C here. For information about the local health department, call 386-437-7350, or visit the office at 301 Dr. Carter Blvd. in Bunnell.