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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”


CDC: Test All Inmates At Risk for Hepatitis C"
Philadelphia Inquirer (01.24.03)
Jennifer Lin & Mark Fazlollah


In its current Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, CDC urged states to test all prisoners with a history of intravenous drug use for hepatitis C. A million hepatitis C-infected inmates are released from US jails each year. The epidemic behind bars affects 16-41 percent of inmates, depending on the state. CDC reported that of those 1 million released annually, it is unknown how many are aware of their infection, which they can unwittingly spread. Federal law requires states to treat sick inmates, but some prison officials argue that money is not available for tests and treatments for hepatitis C. The yearlong treatment can effectively cure half the cases, but costs as much as $25,000. Pennsylvania, which does universal hepatitis C screening of prisoners, has treated or is preparing to treat more than 1,000 inmates at a cost of approximately $6 million. New Jersey estimates that it will have to spend around $4.5 million on hepatitis therapy. If it tests 75 percent of prisoners, the cost will jump to $8 million. CDC's recommendations spell out the education and care prisons should give inmates with the disease and say targeted testing would find most cases. However, it advised states to conduct periodic reviews to make sure the approach was working. Hepatitis C, which attacks the liver, must pass directly into the bloodstream. Therefore, IDUs run the highest risk of infection. Prisons are overrun with cases because, according to CDC, 83 percent of state prisoners and 73 percent of federal prisoners reported past drug use. CDC said 39 percent of the 3 million Americans with chronic hepatitis C infections will pass through correctional institutions each year, putting them on the front lines for screening, counseling and treating the disease. The full report, "Prevention and Control of Infections with Hepatitis Viruses in Correctional Settings," is published in MMWR (01.24.03/52(RR01);1-33).