Third annual Ky. hepatitis conference scheduled July 26 in Lexington; Hepatitis C Town Hall Meeting set July 28 in Hazard

Kentucky, which leads the nation in hepatitis C infections, will have its third annual hepatitis conference July 26 in Lexington, followed by a Hepatitis C Town Hall Meeting in Hazard July 28, World Hepatitis Day.

The first meeting, “Hepatitis: Breaking the Silence,” 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 be held July 26 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Embassy Suites in Lexington and will offer continuing education credits for medical professionals. Space is limited, click here to register.

Dr. John W. Ward, director of the Viral Hepatitis Program at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will discuss public-health challenges for hepatitis prevention, treatment and care. Dr. John T. Brooks of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the CDC, will discuss Appalachia’s vulnerability to HIV and hepatitis C outbreaks.

The conference will also look at screening strategies in children and infants, an update on syringe exchange programs, diagnosis and treatment, barriers to treatment, using telehealth to treat hepatitis in primary care settings, and regional data on addiction and treatment.

In addition to health-care providers, the conference is expecting perinatal hepatitis B coordinators from a six-state region, as well as invited colleagues from the federal government, industry and partner organizations.

“The Kentucky Rural Health Association has fast become the premier organization to educational outreach throughout Kentucky and some nationally,” KRHA Executive Director Tina McCormick said in an e-mail. “We will have attendees from other states at this year’s conference, which spreads the word across state lines.”

Hepatitis C Town Hall Meeting

The state Department for Public Health is also partnering with Shaping Our Appalachian Region to host a Hepatitis C Town Hall Meeting July 28 at Hazard Community and Technical College. 

“The meeting aims to increase community awareness, provide best practices on prevention, detection and treatment of Hepatitis C, HIV and substance abuse and engage multi-sector community, state and national stakeholders to organize resources and enhance engagement,” says a news release.

Earlier this year, the CDC identified 220 counties in the United States as being most vulnerable to outbreaks of HIV and hepatitis C among those who inject drugs in those communities, and 54 of those counties are in Kentucky, with 44 of those in Appalachia.

Counties considered most vulnerable to outbreaks are in green. (CDC image)

“Hepatitis C is a huge threat to the health of the people in Kentucky,” Dr. William Hacker, SOAR community health and wellness advisory chair and former state health commissioner, said in the release. “Many are not aware of the long term effects that this epidemic will have on individuals and communities.”

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by a virus. The CDC says most people get it by sharing needles to inject drugs.

“This town hall meeting allows all to be involved in learning and understanding what the problem is and what we must do to resolve it,” Dr. Ardis Hoven, infectious disease specialist for the health department, said in the release.

The meeting is free and open to the public, though registration is required because space is limited. Continuing education credits are not offered for this meeting. Click here to register.

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