NORTH GEORGIA – Free Hepatitis C Testing is provided at county health departments in North Georgia!
As part of a statewide Hepatitis C prevalence initiative in Georgia, the North Georgia Health District is conducting the Hepatitis C Prevalence Project (HCPP), which is providing data on occurrences of Hepatitis C in the health district via free testing to those who are at higher risk of being infected with the virus. This is a two-step process that identifies and supports individuals who are living with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Hepatitis C is a contagious and sometimes persistent infection that can lead to lifelong liver disease. The Hepatitis C virus is mainly transmitted via contact with blood of an infected person. Most people are unaware they are infected because they don’t look or feel sick.
But the virus can be detected through blood tests.
Therefore, the first step in the district’s HCPP process is to identify HCV infected residents through free rapid Hepatitis C virus testing at health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties. These tests can produce a preliminary result in 20 minutes by using a finger stick test.
Anyone who falls within one or more of the following categories is at higher risk for HCV and is urged to take advantage of this free rapid Hepatitis C testing:
- Born between 1945 and 1965
- Past or present injection drug use
- Sharing of any drug equipment
- HIV positive
- Blood transfusions prior to 1992
- Clotting factors prior to 1987
- Sexual partner of someone who is Hepatitis C positive
- Tattoo or body piercing in an unprofessional setting
For clients who test positive in the first step, the second step is to confirm the results by drawing a blood sample that will be sent to the Georgia Public Health Laboratory for further testing.
Once a positive test result has been confirmed, each health department assists clients in linking to services in their area. Those that qualify can enroll in the Mono Infected Hepatitis C Treatment program at the Whitfield County Health Department.
All clients are also counseled on the importance of healthy habits (avoiding alcohol and drugs, including many over-the-counter drugs), ways to reduce spread of the virus, getting contacts tested, and getting assistance to reduce the risky behaviors that exposed them to Hepatitis C in the first place. And, though there currently is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, clients are counseled on getting vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B.
Testing is offered Mondays through Thursdays at all county health departments in the North Georgia Health District. Test days will be affected by health department closings for events such as holidays and hazardous weather.
To help meet Hepatitis C Prevalence Project objectives and to ensure that a robust demographic and epidemiological picture can be developed of the true prevalence of Hepatitis C in our district, data will be collected on all tests provided through the HCPP, for both positive and negative results.
Local county health departments can provide more information about Hepatitis C and its prevention, symptoms and treatment, or log onto the Georgia Department of Public Health website athttp://dph.georgia.gov/hepatitis-c.
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