New York State Department of Health Recognizes Hepatitis Awareness Month

In Observance of Hepatitis Awareness Month, the Department Reported on the Progress of the New York State Hepatitis C Elimination Plan

NYS DOH Joined Global Public Health Effort in a Commitment to Eliminate Hepatitis C by 2030

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 10, 2023) – In recognition of Hepatitis Awareness Month, the New York State Department of Health outlined its progress on the New York State Hepatitis C Elimination Plan during the First Annual New York State Hepatitis C Elimination Progress Report.  The State has made significant strides in working to eliminate hepatitis C. 

"Hepatitis C can be cured and the Department is committed to eliminating hepatitis C in all New Yorkers," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Treatment is safe, effective and available, so talk to your doctor about getting tested and understanding your risk."

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus, which is found in the blood of individuals who have the disease. Hepatitis C is spread when the blood of an infected person enters the body of a person who is not infected, such as through sharing needles, or when participating in drug use or from an occupational needle stick injury.

Approximately 20% of people exposed to the virus develop symptoms, which occur usually within six to nine weeks, such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), fatigue, dark-colored urine, stomach pain, loss of appetite, and nausea. After the initial infection, 15 to 25% will recover, and 75 to 85% will become chronically infected. Approximately 70% of individuals chronically infected may develop liver disease, sometimes decades after the initial infection.

Since 2020, New York State saw a 3% increase in newly reported cases of hepatitis C. Hepatitis C transmission has been exacerbated by the opioid epidemic in the State. In 2021, most newly reported hepatitis C cases under the age of 40 indicated drug use as their primary risk for the virus. 

In November 2021, New York State released its New York State Hepatitis C Elimination Plan and joined the global public health effort in a commitment to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030. The plan outlines a set of recommendations to address the inequities that sustain the hepatitis C epidemic in New York State. The plan focuses on five key areas: Prevention; Care and Treatment Access; Testing and Linkage to Care; Surveillance, Data and Metrics; and Social Determinants.

From 2010-2021, 189,749 New Yorkers were diagnosed with hepatitis C and 52% of New Yorkers diagnosed between 2010 and 2021 are known to have been cured, or cleared their infection as of 2021. New York State has also passed new legislation to ensure that all adults and pregnant people are screened for hepatitis C. Increased surveillance will make more people aware of their status and seek treatment to prevent more serious conditions. To improve access to hepatitis C treatment, the state eliminated prior authorization for individuals never treated in the past.

To reach the elimination plan's priority population most impacted by hepatitis C - people who inject drugs - the Department's AIDS Institute supports innovative models of care that co-locate hepatitis C treatment in settings where people who inject drugs access other services such as syringe exchange programs or on a mobile van parked outside an opioid treatment program.

While curative treatment for hepatitis C is available, large gaps in testing and treatment persist. Of the estimated 116,000 people living with hepatitis C in New York State, half are unaware of their infection and therefore do not benefit from available curative treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that every adult get tested for hepatitis C at least once in their lifetime and pregnant people during each pregnancy.

May 19 marks a nationwide effort to encourage everyone to get tested and learn their status.

In New York State, May 25 is Hepatitis C Cure Day, a day to celebrate those cured of hepatitis C and to encourage others to get treated.

The Department reminds New Yorkers that hepatitis C is treatable and to get tested for the virus.

New York State Hepatitis C Elimination Plan can be found here.

Hepatitis C Information page can be found here.

Hepatitis C Care and Treatment Programs can be found here.

Hepatitis C Testing Programs can be found here.

The New York State Hepatitis C Elimination Dashboard can be found here.