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Early diagnosis key to treating hepatitis

THANK YOU for your timely article on hepatitis C (“A generation at risk? ” g section, Dec. 24). The piece did an excellent job outlining what can be involved in treating hepatitis C, but minimized the value of early diagnosis.

Not everyone living with hepatitis C will require immediate treatment. But they should be armed with knowledge about the ways that they can live as healthy as possible for as long as possible, and how they can minimize the chances of transmitting the virus to someone else. Those opportunities for health improvement are lost if one lives with the infection without knowing it. The average age of people who die of hepatitis C in Massachusetts is 53 years; these prematurely lost lives are a tragedy.

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With near-universal insurance coverage, Massachusetts is in a unique position to demonstrate how to implement comprehensive care for people with hepatitis C. We have specialists in major academic centers who can provide the latest treatments or access to clinical trials, and are exploring ways to improve access via mechanisms like telemedicine. Our Department of Public Health has some of the best surveillance of emerging trends in the United States, like our newly described epidemic of hepatitis C in people age 15 to 25.

Everyone needs to work together to encourage screening and addressing this “silent” epidemic as early as possible.

Michael Wong

Camilla S. Graham

Co-Directors,
Viral Hepatitis Center

Beth Israel Deaconess
Medical Center

Boston

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