Hepatitis C screening initiative tests positive for saving Veterans’ lives


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Veterans and their families can count on the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (VAHCS) to deliver high quality, comprehensive, coordinated and continuous care. The healthcare system’s Strategic Plan outlines provisions currently at work, meeting the unique needs of America’s heroes.

The Hepatitis C Screening Initiative is one of the ways Bay Pines VAHCS is strategically accomplishing these important objectives and fulfilling the overall mission. As seen pictured above clinical Pharmacist Dr. Amanda Atherton discusses hepatitis C treatment methods with Navy Veteran Dennis Demille.

Through this comprehensive initiative, proactive coordinated care helps to identify Veterans born between 1945 and 1965 who may be at risk of hepatitis C. Then dedicated staff reach out to the Veteran and offer hepatitis C screening.

“Veterans born during this timeframe are five times more likely to have hepatitis C and may not be aware of it since infected individuals can live many years without having any symptoms,” explained Alexis Myers, R.N.

The disease, which affects the liver, is caused by the hepatitis C virus, or HCV. The virus is most often spread through contact with infected blood or blood products.

“On average, we are starting seven Veterans on HCV treatment each week,” said Amanda Atherton, clinical pharmacist.

“The staff really took time to explain everything to me in great detail.”

To date, the Hepatitis C Screening Initiative has provided screening tests for more than 5,200 Veterans and has helped treat a total of 1,850 patients affected with the virus.

Navy Veteran Dennis Demille is grateful to Bay Pines VAHCS staff for taking the necessary steps to help him overcome the virus.

“I was identified through this initiative and tested positive for hepatitis C. I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “The staff really took the time to explain everything to me in great detail, including how I would be treated.”

The Hepatitis C Initiative has made it possible to cure 97 percent of Veterans treated for the disease at Bay Pines. Success rates vary depending on patient adherence, how severe the patient’s liver damage is and whether or not they have been treated previously.

“I started treatment in January and was finished with treatment in February. I couldn’t believe that it was that fast and easy. The virus was completed gone,” said Demille.

The screening initiative is especially important for those Veterans who may not have had the opportunity to meet with a VA provider to discuss their risk of hepatitis C.

Alexis Myers, R.N. contacts Veterans who may be at risk of hepatitis C to offer screenings.

Alexis Myers, R.N. contacts Veterans who may be at risk of hepatitis C to offer screenings.

“Contacting Veterans to offer them a hepatitis C screening gives me great satisfaction in knowing that we are doing everything we can to increase awareness about this disease and potentially saving their lives,” explained Myers.

Veterans with questions on testing or evaluation of hepatitis C are encouraged to contact their Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) or visit: www.hepatitis.va.gov/patient/hcv/index.asp.


Melanie L. Thomas is the public affairs specialist for Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, Bay Pines, Fla. Melanie L. Thomas is the public affairs specialist for Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, Bay Pines, Florida.

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