SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A newly formed steering committee is working to drastically reduce the number of hepatitis C cases in San Diego County, it was announced Monday.
The county's Health and Human Services Agency and the American Liver Foundation-Pacific Coast Division oversee the Eliminate Hepatitis C San Diego County Initiative steering committee, which also includes members of the public and private medical communities. The aim is to reduce new hepatitis C infections in the county by 80 percent and deaths by 65 percent by 2030.
``By joining forces and strengthening our local efforts, we expect to eliminate this curable disease as a public health threat and improve longevity and quality of life for people living with hepatitis C,'' said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 3 1/2 million people in the U.S. have hepatitis C. The county reported 3,112 new hepatitis C cases in 2017. Most complications from the infection develop over the course of two to three decades, but acute hepatitis C infections can develop within six months after exposure.
``Most people with hepatitis C might not be aware of their infection because they do not feel ill,'' said ALF-Pacific Coast Division Executive Director Scott Suckow.
Hepatitis C is generally transmitted through exposure to blood, especially among people who inject drugs and share needles. The infection can also be spread via sexual transmission, but it isn't as common as blood exposure.
CDC officials recommend that people born between 1945 and 1965, current and former injection drug users, people with known exposures to hepatitis C and recipients of blood transfusions and solid organ transplants prior to July 1992 get tested for the infection.
The steering committee, which met for the first time last week, plans to present its plan to reduce hepatitis C contractions and deaths to the Board of Supervisors by the end of next year. County health officials have already suggested that the expansion of testing and treatment access should be a priority for the county going forward.
``There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, but there's a cure, so we'll be working with our public and private partners to try to put an end to the virus in San Diego County,'' Wooten said.