May Is Hepatitis Awareness Month

Indiana Epidemiology Newsletter
April 2008

Mike Wilkinson, B.S.
ISDH Hepatitis C Epidemiologist

May is recognized worldwide as hepatitis awareness month. Specifically, World Hepatitis Day is May 19.  This is a good time to provide awareness and education about viral hepatitis, specifically hepatitis C, for which there is no vaccine. It is estimated that over 4 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is the most common bloodborne pathogen in the United States and is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States. Over 5,000 reported cases were reported in Indiana in 2007.

Many local government officials across the United States have proclaimed May as hepatitis awareness month in their communities to raise awareness. Ideas to promote awareness about viral hepatitis include health fairs, public service announcements, and distribution of educational materials.  The ISDH has a limited amount of brochures and educational materials available to provide to local communities.

Hepatitis C Chronic Case Reporting Remains Voluntary

The ISDH has decided that reporting of chronic hepatitis C cases will remain voluntary in Indiana. The Agency made this decision after conferring with other states and also realizing the limited funding, staffing, and resources available at the local level. However, chronic hepatitis C reporting and investigation has been and remains strongly encouraged. The risk factor data that are compiled from investigations are used to help ensure that educational and prevention resources are targeted appropriately.

In addition, it is important to realize that most (85%) hepatitis cases are asymptomatic, chronic cases.  Many of these individuals may not know they are infected and, thus, may unknowingly spread the disease. Most local health departments (LHD) have conducted investigation of chronic hepatitis C cases and are encouraged to continue that effort. Cases of acute hepatitis C remain reportable within 72 hours.

Submitting Hepatitis C Case Investigation Reports

Some LHDs are still experiencing challenges when submitting hepatitis C case investigation reports to the ISDH through the Teleforms system.  Detailed submission guidelines can be found on the LHD SharePoint site under Hepatitis C Users Guide

The Teleforms system is used to send completed hepatitis C case investigations only.  Data from these reports are entered electronically into a dedicated hepatitis C database.  Please do not send case investigation reports for any other diseases through the Teleforms system.  The following tips will also help ensure proper transmission of reports:

-Fax all six pages of the hepatitis C case investigation form to 317.233.9271
-Do not include a cover page
-Do not attach laboratory reports
-The document must be an original case investigation form, not a copy
-Information on the form should be typed, not handwritten

Public Health District Visits

Mike Wilkinson, ISDH Hepatitis C Epidemiologist, will visit Indiana’s Public Health Districts to provide hands-on information about hepatitis C case report submission and surveillance.  This training, which lasts 45 minutes-1 hour, has already been provided in Districts 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10.  Upcoming training dates include:

District 6           April 25            Muncie Public Library                           2:00 EDT
District 9           May 1               Scott County Courthouse                       11:00 EDT
Districts 7/8      May  8              Monroe County Public Health Clinic       10:00 EDT

For additional information or questions, please contact Mike Wilkinson at 317.234.2827.