Spotlight Series on Hepatitis C

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University of New Mexico Launches Effort Against Hepatitis C

May 22, 2003

This article is part of The Body PRO's archive. Because it contains information that may no longer be accurate, this article should only be considered a historical document.

An estimated 32,000 people in New Mexico are infected with the hepatitis C virus, and less than 5 percent of them are getting treatment. None of the state's 2,000 to 3,000 inmates infected with the disease are being treated for the disease. Dr. Sanjeev Arora, professor of gastroenterology at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, is working with others on a program that will help train health care workers around the state to manage the disease and its complex treatment.

"There are not enough people in the state to treat and manage this infection right now," Arora said. Without treatment, 3,000 to 4,000 New Mexicans will die of the disease's complications or need a liver transplant in the next decade or two, he said.

The training program draws on UNM expertise in treating hepatitis C and uses telemedicine hook-ups to bring help to clinicians statewide. Pilot sites to test the program's effectiveness are being set up with the State Department of Corrections and the District III (Las Cruces) office of the state Department of Health. Fifty to 60 health care providers at those sites -- from pharmacists to physicians -- already have been trained in UNM's protocols for treating hepatitis C, according to Chris Oesterbo, program administrator.

By the middle of this month, telemedicine hook-ups should be ready to handle four-hour weekly sessions during which UNM experts will be on hand to discuss cases and offer advice to participating clinicians. That time commitment might be the biggest hurdle, Arora acknowledged. "A key issue is how to make this as painless as possible for rural providers. They have a very full plate," he said.

"It's a golden opportunity to reduce the 225 miles that separate us," said Ray Stewart, director of the state's District III public health office. He said UNM's training is helping the district's doctors and nurses have more confidence and greater comfort in their ability to treat hepatitis C. He said 20 to 25 new cases per month are diagnosed at his office.

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Adapted from:
Albuquerque Journal
05.12.03; Jackie Jadrnak

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.


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