Urban ERs witness increase in hepatitis C rates
"Given skyrocketing rates of injection heroin use around the country, we expect the already high rates of hepatitis C infection to explode," said Dr. Douglas White, lead study author from Highland Hospital, Alameda Health System in Oakland, California. "Intervention by emergency departments, in the form of screening and referral for treatment, could help slow the spread of this potentially deadly, communicable disease."
Three quarters of the participants who received positive test results did not know that they had hepatitis C infections.
"In addition to the myriad public health functions they already perform, urban emergency departments may play an important role as safety net providers for HCV screening," White said. "We have a better than even chance of reaching many of the three million people who are infected since they tend to be heavy emergency department users already. It gives us a chance to connect these people to ongoing care at HCV clinics or elsewhere in the healthcare system."
Further details about the diagnostic testing and screen program for hepatitis C are included in Annals of Emergency Medicine, online.