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“Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood, and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can cause hepatitis. However, hepatitis is most often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. They are caused by three different viruses, all affecting the liver. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A appears only as an acute or newly occurring infection and does not become chronic. Vaccine is available to prevent Hepatitis A and B; successful treatment regimens have cured those with Hepatitis C. Left untreated, any strain of Hepatitis can lead to liver disease, liver failure, the need for a liver transplant, even liver cancer.

Hepatitis A and B Vaccinations
Hepatitis B vaccinations and Twinrix, a combined vaccine for Hepatitis A and B, are available for those that qualify for the 317 Program. Referrals to outside providers are given to those who need the vaccine but do not qualify for 317.

The Section 317 Immunization Program plays a critical role in achieving national immunization coverage and reductions in disease. Section 317 of the Public Health Service Act authorizes the federal purchase of vaccines to vaccinate children, adolescents, and adults. Over its 50 year history, Section 317-purchased vaccine has met the needs of priority populations; most recently this has included under-insured children not eligible for the Vaccines For Children program, and uninsured adults. Section 317 funding supports immunization programs at the local, state, and national levels. For additional information, or to determine if you qualify for the 317 Program, or to schedule an appointment for testing, please contact the Health Department.

The Need for Hepatitis C Testing
Millions of people born from 1945 through 1965 have hepatitis C and are unaware they have the virus. Many "Baby Boomers" were inadvertently exposed during the height of hepatitis C rates in the 1970's and 1980's. Of the more than 3 million people living with hepatitis C, 75% were born from 1945 to 1965.

Other risk factors include people who have received blood, blood products, or an organ transplant prior to June 1992; have used injectable drugs, even if only once; have HIV or hepatitis B; have been incarcerated; have a tattoo from an unregulated tattoo artist/parlor; have been on kidney dialysis for several years; were born to a mother with Hepatitis C; are a health or public safety worker who could have been exposed to the blood of someone with Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C can cause liver damage and liver failure. Over time, chronic Hepatitis C can cause serious health problems including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death. In fact, Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and the number one illness leading to liver transplants.

Hepatitis C Testing
Hepatitis C disease testing is available by appointment only, Monday through Friday from 8:30-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m. A positive, or "reactive" test result will trigger a referral to a primary care provider. A positive test result at the health department does not mean a person has active hepatitis C, but simply that further testing is required. If someone does ultimately test positive, they are connected to a care provider for treatment. Hepatitis C can be treated. Successful treatments can eliminate the virus from the body and prevent liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.

A fee of $10 is assessed for testing. Missouri HealthNet insurance is also accepted.

The Health Department utilizes the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory in Jefferson City to test the samples submitted. Results are typically available in one and half to two weeks.

Clients with a positive result from a Hepatitis C test are referred to a primary care provider for further testing, and if necessary, treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has additional resources available