Maui News

High Rates of Hep C Found in Hawaiʻi’s Kupuna

May 12, 2016, 3:30 PM HST
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High Rates of Hep C in Hawaiʻi's Kupuna. Maui Now graphic.

High Rates of Hep C in Hawaiʻi’s Kupuna. Maui Now graphic.

Hawaiʻi’s kupuna, including baby boomers between the ages of 51 and 71, are among those most at risk for hepatitis C, according to the state Department of Health.

Health officials say hepatitis C can lead to liver disease or liver cancer.

Starting on Thursday, May 19, which is National Hepatitis Testing Day, the state Department of Health will partner with CVS Minute Clinics and Hep Free Hawaiʻi to offer convenient hepatitis C point-of-care testing.

All nine CVS Minute Clinics, located within selected Longs Drugs stores on Oʻahu, will offer a finger-prick test (instead of a blood draw) to check for hepatitis C in persons at risk, especially baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965. The department did not identify any outer island partner sites.

Results from the rapid hepatitis C antibody test are available in 20 minutes. This preventive health service is fully covered by most insurance plans with no out-of-pocket costs for members.

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Health officials say Hawaiʻi is the state with the highest rate of liver cancer in the US, and the majority of liver cancer cases in Hawaiʻi are caused by viral hepatitis types B and C. An estimated 23,000 persons in Hawaiʻi are currently living with chronic hepatitis C, which can lead to liver disease and cancer.

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Hepatitis C is spread by blood-to-blood exposure (such as sharing injection equipment), but there are also high rates among baby boomers (born 1945-1965), regardless of any known blood exposure. Hawaiʻi health officials say more than one out of four people in Hawaiʻi are baby boomers and should be tested at least once for hepatitis C infection.

“Most people with hepatitis C don’t know that they have it,” said Thaddeus Pham, Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator with the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health. “If undetected, hepatitis C can lead to liver disease, liver cancer, or even death. Since hepatitis C is manageable and, in some cases, even curable, people can prevent liver cancer through early detection. We encourage all baby boomers, as well as other Hawaiʻi residents at risk for hepatitis C, to get tested right away. Getting tested is the first step in liver cancer prevention.”

“We’re partnering with local CVS Minute Clinics because we recognize the increasing importance of non-traditional healthcare delivery models,” Pham said. “Many of us often go to our local pharmacy or drug store more often than we go to our doctor. It’s important to use every opportunity to increase awareness and screening for our ʻohana. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where you go, as long as you get tested to prevent liver disease and cancer.”

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