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PHR Article of the Week: Follow-Up Testing for Hepatitis C Virus Infection: An Analysis of Massachusetts Surveillance Data, 2007–2010

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a major public health concern in the United States, with as many as 5.2 million people affected. It is a major cause of morbidity and mortality and a leading cause of hepatocellular carcinoma. HCV-related mortality has now surpassed that of human immunodeficiency virus-related mortality in the U.S. While available treatment may reduce mortality, HCV-infected individuals first need to be tested appropriately and have active infection confirmed.

In the latest issue of Public Health Reports, September/October 2014 , researchers at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Infectious Disease, William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute, Ms. Kerri Barton, Mr. Dan Church, Ms. Shauna Onofrey, Dr. Noelle Cocoros, and Dr. Alred DeMaria discuss their analysis of surveillance data to determine how many of those with HCV infection reported to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) from 2007 through 2010 could be documented to have received appropriate follow-up testing.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) identified cases of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection reported from 2007 through 2010 to assess evidence of appropriate follow-up testing for the diagnosis of active HCV infection. Surveillance data were used to assess the number of people with reported HCV who had an antibody test and nucleic acid test (NAT) for HCV, to determine the time between tests, and to identify demographic characteristics. Out of the 34,005 cases of HCV reported with laboratory results during the study period, 45 percent (n = 15,279) had only an antibody test reported and 55 percent (n = 18,726) had a NAT reported, with differences by age, gender, and region of residence. Nearly half of those with reported cases of HCV infection in Massachusetts did not have a NAT reported to MDPH, indicating that these individuals may not have received appropriate diagnostic testing. Analysis of demographics suggests differences by age, gender, and region.

This week’s PHR feature report,  Follow-Up Testing for Hepatitis C Virus Infection: An Analysis of Massachusetts Surveillance Data, 2007–2010, is available open access online through October 3rd. For full access to all current content, visit the Public Health Reports website to subscribe.