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MDHHS encourages hepatitis B and hepatitis C testing during pregnancy as part of Hepatitis Awareness Month

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has proclaimed May as Hepatitis Awareness Month and Sunday, May 19 as Hepatitis Testing Day in Michigan to raise awareness about viral hepatitis and encourage testing and vaccination.

In recognition of Hepatitis Awareness Month and Hepatitis Testing Day, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is highlighting the importance of testing for hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) during every pregnancy, ideally at the initial prenatal visit.

“Hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses are treatable; however, when left untreated they can lead to long-term infections causing liver disease and liver cancer,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive. “These viruses can be detected through a simple blood test. We are encouraging pregnant people to talk to their health care provider about risk factors and getting tested.”

Viral hepatitis primarily affects the liver. HBV and HCV are the leading causes of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplants in the United States. HBV and HCV can be transmitted from pregnant people to their baby during pregnancy and childbirth. Therefore, testing for these viruses during pregnancy is critical for identifying people who need treatment and at-risk infants in need of testing, HBV vaccination and monitoring.

HBV is transmitted from person-to-person through contaminated blood or body fluids. To protect against infection, the following groups should receive HBV vaccination:

  • All infants and children and adolescents younger than 19 years who have not been vaccinated.
  • Adults ages 19 through 59 years.
  • Adults ages 60 years and older with risk factors for HBV.

HCV is spread through contact with blood from an infected person. People with HCV infections are often undiagnosed because they rarely experience symptoms or feel sick. There is no vaccine for HCV; however, there are effective medications that can cure HCV infection when taken once daily for as little as eight to 12 weeks. HCV treatment is not currently approved for use during pregnancy; however, treatment can be administered after delivery and completion of breastfeeding.

Infants exposed to HCV during pregnancy and childbirth should be tested for HCV between 2-6 months of age and monitored by a pediatrician with HCV expertise until they are eligible to receive treatment at 3 years of age.

Any Medicaid or Healthy Michigan Plan beneficiary living with HCV can receive HCV treatment at little to no cost through the We Treat Hep C Initiative. Beneficiaries seeking HCV treatment can locate a provider by visiting the Hepatitis C Treatment Provider Map and Directory. While not a complete list of all HCV treatment providers in the state, it serves as a valuable resource.

For more information, please visit the MDHHS Hepatitis webpage.

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