The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has launched a new public health campaign targeting the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV).
Transmitted through contaminated blood, the virus can become chronic and lead to serious health problems, such as liver damage, liver failure, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death.
Health plans around the state, including our partner UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Michigan, are supporting the campaign and encouraging state and local organizations to take immediate actions to prevent the spread of and treat Hep C.
The prevalence of HCV in Michigan
In the United States, 2.7 million people are infected with HCV. In newly-infected persons, 75-85 percent develop a chronic infection and 60-70 percent of chronically infected people develop chronic liver disease.
Michigan is among the ten states with the highest populations of HCV. Currently, 200,000 Michiganders are living with Hep C. In 2019, there were 6,036 new chronic Hep C diagnoses in the state, with a spike in diagnoses among adults ages 18-39. This prompted the CDC to recommend one-time Hep C testing among all adults over 18 and those who are pregnant.
According to the MDHHS report on Hepatitis infections:
- The median age of those newly infected with chronic Hep C is 30.
- The highest rates of chronic Hep C cases in 2019 were reported in the following counties: Macomb, Wayne, Washtenaw, St Clair, Oakland, Muskegon, and Monroe.
- Women who’ve given birth and are infected with HCV are most likely to be between 20-29 years old, seek less prenatal care, drink alcohol, be less educated, and use Medicaid.
- 30 cases of HCV and HIV co-infection were reported in Michigan in 2019.
- Hospitalizations for HCV increased 46% between 2015 and 2018.
Across the country, the rate of HCV infections among women has increased to 3.4 instances per 1,000 births, with Michigan experiencing a rate of 2.6-5.0 per 1,000 births. As the most common bloodborne infection in the country, HCV is a growing public health concern.
A 2021 study found that Michigan has higher HCV incidences in urban areas, but lower treatment specialist access in rural areas. As a result, population-based screenings and addressing geographical barriers to care are recommended as part of the state’s HCV elimination planning efforts.
“We Treat Hep C” requires community support
The MDHHS “We Treat Hep C” campaign was launched in 2021 and requires healthcare systems, providers, community leaders, social workers, and others in the health and social services industry to take immediate action.
Want to help? Here’s what you can do:
- Share stories and raise awareness of HCV to put an end to the stigma.
- If you are a provider, incorporate orders for HCV tests in your routine primary care.
- If you are a shelter, help increase the education around HCV.
- Expand screenings for HCV testing, especially in high-prevalence areas.
- Address key social determinants of health and build initiatives to combat poverty, housing insecurity, education gaps, and poor access to mental health care.
As part of the Elimination Plan, MDHHS is focusing on at-risk individuals who include incarcerated people, people using injectable drugs, Baby Boomers born between 1945-1965, American Indians and Alaskan Natives, women of reproductive age, and those co-infected with HCV and HIV.
Through Michigan's Hepatitis C Elimination Plan including the MDHHS We Treat Hep C campaign, supported by the national strategic plan, MDHHS believes Michigan can become Hepatitis C free - and we agree.
If you want to learn more about the initiative or get in touch with Healthify to learn about our SDoH initiatives in Michigan, please contact us here.