By now, the message urging all Baby Boomers to get a one-time screening test for infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been heard. Yet HCV infections continue to occur at unsettling rates. New infections are being fueled by the ongoing epidemic of illegal drug use, particularly injection drugs.
This is why a new message needs to be heard: the importance of routine HCV testing in the population of young adult injection drug users. New research shows that such testing would result in improved life expectancy for this population. It’s particularly beneficial to conduct this routine testing with a rapid form of the HCV test.
Rapid testing provides results on the same day, unlike standard testing that requires a follow-up visit. Unfortunately, many individuals simply don’t or won’t return for a follow-up visit, which means these people don’t find out their infection status and the health care team loses the opportunity to treat the patient for HCV infection. Thus, rapid testing proves to be a cost-effective way to reduce mortality from this disease.
With rapid testing for HCV providing a diagnosis in one day and new direct-acting antivirals curing hepatitis C in as little as eight weeks, there is potential for patients to no longer have hepatitis C in a surprisingly short time. It just takes access to the test and treatment. Health care providers continue to work on removing barriers for patients in need of hepatitis C treatment.
Boston Medical Center. Rapid hepatitis C testing may help better screen young adults: Study finds improved life expectancy when patients get immediate results. ScienceDaily September 21, 2017.