Mich. Dept of Health receives $1.6M grant for Hepatitis prevention

The Michigan Department of Community Health has received a three-year $1.6 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support disease surveillance to monitor acute and viral hepatitis.

The grant will also improve the education of those delivering hepatitis prevention and public health programs.

Justin Haveman, the Director of MDCH says this is the first time Michigan has been awarded funding for this type of program.

"Hepatitis affects millions of Americans, and opportunities such as this are critical to detecting and treating those cases," Haveman said.

According to a press release from the Department of Community Health, about 65 to 75 percent of the infected population is unaware they have the hepatitis B or C viruses because of the asymptomatic nature of the disease.

Most cases are not reported until they have symptoms of advanced disease such as chronic liver disease or a type of liver cancer.

The Institute of Medicine estimates that 2.7-3.9 million people in the U.S. are living with chronic HCV infections. In 2011, there were more than 7,000 confirmed cases of HCV reported to the Department of Community Health in Michigan. While more than 63 percent of those cases were from those born between 1945 and 1965, 17 percent of those reported in 2001 were young adults between the ages of 15 and 29.

The Department of Community Health says this funding will allow MDCH to improve surveillance systems and increase the awareness of viral hepatitis. DCH says working with providers is critical to ensuring that patients are tested and learn their status so they can see treatment sooner, if necessary.