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Hep C Testing, Identification Plummet During COVID-19

TUESDAY, Dec. 8, 2020 -- The COVID-19 systematic emergency response has led to a decrease in hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing and identification, according to a study published online Nov. 22 in the Journal of Primary Care & Community Health.

Heather Sperring, from Boston Medical Center, and colleagues examined the impact of the COVID-19 rapid restructuring response on HCV testing and identification. Unique patient tests were compared for 3.5-month periods before and after March 16, 2020. The total tests and total new HCV RNA+ were compared before and after in a hospital-wide setting and ambulatory clinics alone.

The researchers found that the total HCV testing decreased by 49.6 percent and new HCV+ patient identification decreased by 42.1 percent hospital-wide. Testing decreased by 71.9 percent and new HCV+ identification decreased by 63.3 percent in ambulatory clinics. The mean daily tests declined by 22.9 tests per day hospital-wide, and mean daily new HCV+ identification declined by 0.36 patients per day. Mean daily tests decreased by 22.1 tests per day in ambulatory clinics, and mean daily HCV+ identification declined by 1.40 patients per day.

"The health care impacts of COVID-19 are more widespread than the effects of the disease itself. The pandemic has had substantial implications for our patients, and not just those who contracted COVID-19," a coauthor said in a statement. "Hepatitis C virus is likely just one example of many chronic diseases whose cascade of care was affected by COVID-19."

Support for HCV testing was provided by a grant from Gilead Sciences.

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Posted: December 2020

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