“It’s a long term investment that prevents untreated patients from suffering severe liver damage, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and a host of other costly conditions linked to hepatitis C.”
When doctors told Tina Harris that she was infected with hepatitis C, she didn’t know what to think. Other than the few commercials she’d seen on TV, Harris said she hadn’t heard much about the disease.
The 52-year-old works at a church in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. She said she never used intravenous needles or had a blood transfusion – common means of transmission for hepatitis C. “I don’t know where it came from,” she said.
And she may never have found that she was infected if it weren’t for a New York state law that makes hepatitis C screening a required part of primary care for baby boomers. That law led Harris to be tested a few years ago and prompted her to seek treatment.
The measure, which the state legislature passed in 2014, was the first of its kind in the U.S. It required health-care providers to test anybody born between 1945 and 1965 for hepatitis C. Now a new study conducted by the New York State Department of Health suggests it might be paying off.
The study found that 50 percent more patients were tested in the year following the law’s implementation. The data also showed that about 40 percent more of the patients diagnosed with hepatitis C – like Harris – received follow up care that year.
“I would have never asked to be tested,” Harris said.