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541 INCREASING AWARENESS OF HEPATITIS C DISEASE, RISK, AND TESTING IN FAIRBANKS, ALASKA.
  1. M. L. Ellis
  1. University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA

Abstract

Purpose Cases of hepatitis C (HCV) reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for Fairbanks, AK, are strikingly low compared to the national average. This is, in part, due to a lack of identified cases. Fairbanks population has a very high incidence of IV drug use, a major risk factor for HCV transmission. The population also has a high incidence of tattooing (both homemade and commercial) that may present a transmission risk. Commercial tattoo artists were not required to be licensed before 2001. Testing rates have decreased in recent years. An attempt was made to increase awareness of HCV, risk, and available testing.

Methods Community members (including public health nurse, local doctors, patients, and local tattoo artist) were interviewed to gain understanding of local hepatitis C risks and care. Research was completed using PubMed, CDC, State Epidemiology, and various hepatitis C Web sites. An informative flyer was created to share information on HCV as a potentially quiet but worsening disease. Risk factors were listed. Free testing at a public health clinic was advertised. The flyer was circulated at the local needle exchange program and in two local clinics.

Summary Increased awareness of HCV, risk, and testing should increase the number of Fairbanks residents who identify their need to be tested. Since treatment may be able to stop the progression of liver disease due to HCV, testing may eventually lead to improved outcomes. Community interest and involvement in HCV prevention and treatment should also increase with the flyer.

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