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Viral Hepatitis

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Screening Veterans for Hepatitis C Infection

for Health Care Providers

Screening Veterans for Hepatitis C Infection

Hepatitis C is an important public health issue in the veteran community. Since 1998, the Veterans Health Administration has initiated and implemented a comprehensive National Hepatitis C Program to screen veterans for HCV.

The VHA has developed the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Testing and Prevention Counseling Guidelines for VA Health Care Practitioners to offer guidelines to providers in a variety of VA settings who

  • assist veterans in identifying their HCV status,
  • provide education,
  • and help facilitate behavior changes that will reduce their risk of acquiring or transmitting HCV.

The following is a list of criteria that the VA uses to screen veterans for HCV infection:

  • Patient desires to be tested, or
  • One or more of the following risks are identified:
    • Prior or current intravenous drug use
    • Blood transfusion or organ transplantation prior to 1992
    • Hemodialysis
    • Vietnam-era Veteran, defined by dates of service from 1964 through 1975
    • Health care, emergency medical care, emergency medical and public safety workers after a needlestick injury or mucosal exposure to HCV-positive blood
    • Tattoos or body-piercings obtained in non-regulated settings
    • Intranasal drug users who have shared paraphernalia
    • Past sexual exposure to an HCV infected partner or 10 or more lifetime sexual partners
    • Current sexual partners of HCV-infected persons
    • Persons with HIV infection
    • History of hemophilia and received clotting factor concentrates prior to 1987
    • History of unexplained liver disease or abnormal liver function test
    • Persons who have alcoholic hepatitis or a diagnosis (DSM-IV) of alcohol abuse or dependence.
    • Born to a mother with HCV

Clinicians are urged to utilize the Hepatitis C Virus Antibody Screening Flow Chart if there is a presence or history of any of the above criteria. To learn more about diagnostic tests for HCV, please see the provider education section on Laboratory Tests and HCV.