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DOH partners with local labs to expand testing for curable hepatitis C

Published on 19 October 2022 in Press room

HONOLULU – The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) is partnering with Diagnostic Laboratory Services (DLS) and Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii (CLH) to encourage providers to perform “reflex” testing for hepatitis C, which will help more people to be diagnosed and cured of hepatitis C.

Currently, hepatitis C is detected by antibody tests, but requires an RNA test to confirm infection. The reflex test ensures that when an antibody test is positive, the sample is automatically processed by the laboratory to confirm hepatitis C infection using an RNA test. The DOH, DLS, and CLH urge health care providers to order the “reflex” option when screening for hepatitis C, to ensure more accurate and timely diagnoses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends that all adults over 18 get tested for hepatitis C at least once, regardless of known risk. Hepatitis C testing involves a simple blood test and can be requested through health care providers.

“By promoting the option of ‘reflex’ hepatitis C testing to confirmatory testing, our local labs are helping improve the path to recovery for many people in Hawaiʻi,” said Prevention Coordinator Thaddeus Pham. viral hepatitis from DOH. “Our laboratories have always been essential partners in public health, and we are delighted and grateful for their partnership in ensuring that more people have rapid access to the cure for hepatitis C, starting with diagnosis.”

“Diagnostic Laboratory Services, Inc. (DLS) is proud to partner with the DOH to help our community fight liver disease and liver cancer through the Hepatitis C ‘reflex’ test,” said Mark Wasielewski, President of Diagnostic Laboratory Service, Inc. “It is only by working together that we can achieve a Hep free 2030 Hawaii.”

“Clinical Labs of Hawaii is proud to support this initiative and to partner with the DOH and Hawaii’s healthcare providers to promote confirmatory testing for hepatitis C,” said Dr. Owen Chan, Medical Director from Clinical Labs of Hawaii. “Hepatitis C, if detected early through laboratory testing, is treatable and many downstream diseases are preventable.”

Hepatitis C is transmitted primarily through blood-to-blood transmission, particularly through shared injection equipment.

  • October is Liver Cancer Awareness Month and Hawaiʻi has one of the highest liver cancer rates in the United States. The main causes are viral hepatitis B and C. In the United States, new cases of hepatitis C are on the rise, increasing by more than 60% from 2015 to 2019.
  • Almost half of people with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection. Rapid and comprehensive testing is the first step to accessing a cure. However, one in three people with a positive HCV antibody test do not receive a confirmatory RNA test.
  • Hepatitis C is curable for most people within 12 weeks. A positive HCV RNA test is necessary to diagnose current HCV infection and initiate oral curative therapy. Without treatment, 15-20% of adults with chronic HCV infection will develop progressive liver fibrosis and cirrhosis that can lead to death.

The CDC and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) recognize that HCV antibody testing followed by confirmatory RNA testing is the best practice for identifying hepatitis C infection.

Both the DLS and CLH have the ability to automatically “reflect” positive HCV antibody tests to the HCV RNA test from the same blood sample. (CLH test code: HCVABR (0437); DLS test code: 542R)

This partnership is part of Hep free 2030, the statewide strategy to eliminate viral hepatitis in Hawaiʻi by 2030, which was developed by the DOH in conjunction with Hep Free Hawaiʻi and more than 160 community stakeholders. For more information on Hawaii’s hepatitis elimination efforts, visit www.hepfreehawaii.org/hep-free-2030.

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