Hepatitis C is the most common bloodborne infection in the United States . Approximately 2.4 million people in the United States are living with hepatitis C, but 51% are unaware that they have it . Although hepatitis C is a short-term illness for some, it develops into a long-term chronic infection for more than half of others.
Screening is vital because people often have no symptoms or mild symptoms that they ignore or attribute to other conditions. Without timely identification and treatment, chronic hepatitis C can lead to serious health problems and complications like cirrhosis. Accessible hepatitis C screening is a fundamental step in identifying those who are unaware of their infection and connecting them to the care and treatment they need. However, with the pandemic disrupting healthcare services, opportunities to conduct routine hepatitis C virus antibody screening have been reduced. LetsGetChecked can help health plans make screening more accessible by meeting members where they are with our convenient and easy-to-use home Hepatitis C Test.
Decreases in hepatitis C screening during the pandemic
During the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised the delay of nonessential procedures and postponing routine clinical visits as a part of COVID-19 mitigation strategies. This disruption in the provision of healthcare services reduced opportunities to get routine hepatitis C screening. The pandemic seriously impacted hepatitis programs that have had a history of being underfunded and understaffed, with approximately 77% of jurisdictions reporting a reduction in critical prevention services, including screenings .
The reduced capacity of community-based organizations and clinical programs impacted people’s ability to access hepatitis screening. In April 2020, the Hepatitis C virus antibody testing volume decreased by 59% compared to the 2018 and 2019 months . Such a significant decrease in testing and treatment has affected individual patients and the greater population, hampering progress towards hepatitis C elimination targets.
Consequences of a lack of hepatitis C testing
Without the appropriate screening, people living with undiagnosed hepatitis C may later become identified at more advanced stages, leading to higher morbidity and mortality rates. Early screening is important because there is a better success rate and outcome if the disease is caught early before severe symptoms and complications occur. Highly effective antiviral medications can cure a majority of patients when found early enough. Unfortunately, many people do not realize that they have been infected with the hepatitis C virus until the disease has become fairly advanced. Over time, untreated hepatitis C can cause cirrhosis of the liver that can cause complications that ultimately lead to liver failure and increase one’s risk of liver cancer.
A lack of hepatitis C screening can also contribute to the transmission of the virus to others. Unidentified individuals infected with the hepatitis C virus may unknowingly pass on the virus to others. Getting tested allows patients to receive timely treatment, preventing the community spread of this easily transmissible virus. Hepatitis C is transmittable through exposure to an infected person’s blood, which can occur through a variety of activities, including unprotected sex, pregnancy and birth, needle-stick injuries, and sharing drug-use equipment.
How at-home testing can increase access to hepatitis C testing
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all asymptomatic adults, regardless of their risk factors and age, be screened for the hepatitis C virus. Home hepatitis C tests can increase the number of people being screened to continue progress toward eliminating hepatitis C. Health plans can provide their members with safe, private, and convenient screening that they can use from the comfort of their homes, overcoming screening barriers such as time constraints and a lack of transportation or inadequate or inaccessible healthcare services.
LetsGetChecked’s home Hepatitis C Test identifies hepatitis C antibodies, which may indicate a current or previous disease. Screening is the vital first step to identifying infected individuals who wouldn’t know their status otherwise. By partnering with health plans, our at-home healthcare model has increased access and earlier detection to increase hepatitis C screening rates and reduce the number of individuals unaware of their hepatitis C virus infection. Contact our team to learn more about our virtual healthcare solutions, or sign up for our monthly newsletter to get curated insights from our team of experts, event invitations, and industry news you can use.