The prevalence of Hepatitis C infections in the U.S. is alarming at roughly 3 million infected Americans, with nearly half unaware they are infected. Chicago is home to an estimated 70,000 Americans infected with HCV, which has prompted the funding of a public health program to fight this leading cause of hepatic failure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently awarded the University of Chicago Medicine‘s Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes Chicago (ECHO-Chicago) program a grant worth $1.55 million to spearhead local strategies against HCV. The 4-year grant is expected to amount to $6.2 million and will go to the Hepatitis C Community Alliance to Test and Treat (HepCCATT) to boost the city’s HCV screening and treatments.
ECHO-Chicago director and founder Dr. Daniel Johnson believes the success of this program will depend on the collaboration of several academic medical institutions, public health providers, corporate and not-for-profit organizations, and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH); and will devote efforts to the following primary concerns for HCV:
- Public education on hepatitis C risk factors and importance of testing
- Expand primary care provider (PCP) capacity to treat, and cure HCV at community health centers
- Robust surveillance to monitor population-level changes in HCV testing, treatment, and cure
- Coordination among all stakeholders to improve access and reduce the cost of HCV care
The HepCCATT initiative has set a high bar for the measurement of success in reaching and tending to those infected with and at risk for HCV. They are aiming to screen at least 18,500 individuals, and administer treatment to at least 2,500 patients yearly, with special attention to individuals born between 1945 and 1965, African-Americans, and past/present intravenous drug users.
Another source of cross-contamination and risk for acquiring hepatitis is the usage of multi-dose vials, especially when the same needle is used from patient to patient. This resulted in an 11-person outbreak in Toronto, Canada, wherein 9 out of 11 infected patients developed chronic Hepatitis C.