Thursday, July 12, 2018

Fifth annual Viral Hepatitis Conference in Lexington July 31

Kentucky will hold its fifth annual viral hepatitis conference, "Kentucky's Hepatitis Epidemic: The Role of Professionals in Hepatitis Elimination" July 31 in Lexington, three days after World Hepatitis Day.

The meeting is hosted by the Kentucky Rural Health Association, the state Department for Public Health's Adult Viral Hepatitis Prevention Program and the Kentucky Immunization Program. It will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa in Lexington and will offer continuing education credits for medical professionals. Space is limited; click here for more information and to register.

Kentucky leads the nation in the rate of new hepatitis C infections, with the highest rates occurring in the Appalachian region and Northern Kentucky, where injection drug use is most prevalent. Hepatitis C is often spread through the sharing of needles among intravenous drug users.

Laura Ungar of the Louisville Courier Journal reported in March that one in 56 Kentucky births in 2014-16 were to mothers with a history of hepatitis C, and that those births more than quadrupled between 2010 and 2016, from 260 to 1,057. The national rate in 2015 was one in 308.  Hepatitis C can be transmitted from mother to baby during childbirth. Kentucky passed a law this year that requires all pregnant women to be tested for the disease, with the results added to the child's records. It also recommends that the child be tested at 24 months if the mother tests positive.

Kentucky is also experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A, reported by the state health commissioner as "the worst on record across the nation and in Kentucky." As of June 30, Kentucky has had 1,034  cases of hepatitis A since the outbreak began almost one year ago in August, 603 hospitalizations and seven deaths. Most of Kentucky's cases have been among the homeless and drug users.

Topics for the conference will include the national hepatitis action plan; hepatitis infections related to the growing opioid epidemic; Kentucky's opioid response efforts; best practices for screening, diagnosing and linking patients to care; innovative interventions to address hepatitis outbreaks; perinatal transmission of hepatitis; Medicaid and hepatitis treatment in Kentucky; and a session on mobilizing community action. The draft agenda and a biography of each speaker can be found on the registration website.

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