Hepatitis C

ALL veterans should be tested for hepatitis C


The virus can attack the liver, often without causing
noticeable symptoms, for 10 to 40 years!

A doctor with the Veterans Administration in Pittsburgh
estimates that 7% to 10% of his patients
have been exposed to the virus.

4 Million Americans

"Nearly 4 million Americans are believed to have hepatitis C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The virus, which can lead to liver failure and cancer, is blamed for about 10,000 deaths a year. It is the leading cause of chronic liver disease and transplants. However, the government has estimated that as many as half of those thought to have the infection, don't know they have it since patients can go for two or three decades before observable symptoms emerge."   Newsday

[Click here for full article]

June 11, 1998

VA Undersecretary for Health, Kenneth Kizer, ordered VA Medical Centers to offer free testing to vets who have any of the known risk factors for hepatitis C


Variables associated with HCV
infection in Veterans

* Vietnam-era veterans
* Blood transfusion prior to 1992
* Injection drug use
* Hemodialysis
* High risk sexual activity
* Cocaine use
* Low socioeconomic status
* Excess alcohol use
* Tattoos or body piercing in men
* Blood exposure in the work place
* Unequivocal blood exposure

[Note: These variables may be inter-related and are not necessarily independently related to HCV infection.]

Source: U.S. Veterans Health Administration

January 22, 2002

Vietnam Veterans of America HEP C Update

Department of Veterans Affairs

Hepatitis C has particular importance for the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) because of its prevalence in VA's service population. Recent studies indicate that one in every 10 US veterans is infected with HCV, a rate five times greater than the 1.8% infection rate of the general population. Since mid-1998, Hepatitis C has been identified as the single most important emerging pathogen in the VA healthcare system with an estimated HCV prevalence range between 10 to 20 percent in patients currently treated by the VA.   It is likely that as many as 280,000-350,000 veterans are HCV seropositive.  HCV accounts for nearly 55% of liver transplantations performed in the VA (Kiser, 1998:1).  Today, the VA is treating over 80,000 veterans with Hepatitis C.

On March 17, 1999, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) conducted a nationwide surveillance activity and tested over 26,000 veterans for Hepatitis C.  The testing revealed a point prevalence rate of 6.6% with a
wide variation by geography and era of military service (VHA Directive 2001-009).  Data compiled from the nationwide screening studies revealed that there is an ethnic distribution among veterans who tested positive for HCV: 27% were African-American, 6% Hispanic, 42% white, and 25% unknown. 

Sixty percent of veterans with HCV infection were between 45-60 years of age. The age distribution for HCV-infected veterans was found to be: 40-44 years (23%), 45-49 years (32%), and 50-54 (18%).  In addition, greater than >95% of those who were positive for HCV were male and 9% were homeless. 

The majority of HCV-infected veterans were from the Vietnam War era (63%), with the minority being from other periods: post-Vietnam (19%), Korean War (5%), post-Korean War (4%), WWII (4%), and other (5%).

In its continuing efforts to provide care to more than 80,000 veterans infected with hepatitis C, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on Jan. 1, 2002, funded four new centers to evaluate and improve hepatitis C screening, testing, clinical care and education. Each of the centers will receive annual funding of up to $500,000 for five years, plus start-up costs.  The centers are located at Minneapolis, San Francisco, West Haven, Conn., and Seattle, in conjunction with the Portland, Ore. VA medical center.

Get tested. Hepatitis screening is available throughout the VA system.

February 2000 news clipping

Miss America 2000 and Vietnam Veterans of America To Help Veterans Fight Hepatitis C in Louisville

Free Screenings Available to All Veterans

LOUISVILLE, Ky., February 28, 2000 -- PR Newswire

Heather French -- a former Miss Louisville -- will return to the Bluegrass State as Miss America 2000 to launch a national program of hepatitis C screenings and seminars for veterans. Working with the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Miss French will promote a campaign called Helping Veterans Fight a Silent Enemy; Hepatitis C. The program will educate veterans and their families about their risk for hepatitis C and encourage them to get tested for the disease.

Miss French, the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, will launch the campaign Saturday, March 4, at United Auto Workers (UAW) Union Hall, Local 862, 6707 Grade Lane, Louisville. The program begins at 10 a.m. Free screenings will be provided for all veterans by the Louisville Veterans Affairs Medical Center throughout the day. Additionally, a hepatitis C seminar will be held to educate the public about disease risk factors and symptoms, as well as existing treatment options. Speakers include: Miss French; Bennett Cecil, MD, Director of Hepatitis C Clinic, Louisville Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Darrel Martin, VVA Kentucky State Chapter 454 president; and Ken Moore, VVA hepatitis C coordinator.

Hepatitis C is an emerging health issue among America's veterans, who may be at higher risk for contracting the virus than the general public. "U.S. veterans who had blood-to-blood contact by receiving blood prior to 1992, during or after surgery, by caring for the wounded, or even by getting a tattoo with a non-sterilized needle, need to be tested for hepatitis C because they may be at risk," said Dr. Cecil. "Veterans should take advantage of this opportunity to get tested for this potentially life threatening disease."

Ms. French, who has been a strong advocate of veterans' causes during her year of service as Miss America 2000, views the screening program as a way of protecting the health of American veterans. "As a daughter of a Vietnam veteran, I have seen the health challenges that veterans face," says Miss French. "I do not want our country's veterans to suffer needlessly from preventable and treatable diseases such as hepatitis C. This program allows me to do my part in helping veterans stay healthy."

Hepatitis C affects approximately 4 million people in the United States and often shows no outward signs or symptoms for up to 30 years. A recent Department of Veterans Affairs testing of 26,000 VA patients found that nearly 8 to 10 percent were infected with hepatitis C, a rate of infection significantly higher than the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention's estimations that 1.8 percent of all Americans may be infected with Hepatitis C Virus (HCV).

Almost 3 million of the approximately 4 million Americans infected with hepatitis C will develop a chronic infection, which can lead to liver cancer or liver failure. Complications resulting from the HCV-related liver disease result in an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 deaths per year, with the death toll expected to triple over the next 10 to 20 years. HCV is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States and one study found that more than half of liver transplant patients in VA hospitals have hepatitis C.

As a national spokesperson and advocate for homeless veterans, Miss French travels approximately 20,000 miles a month, to a different city every other day, addressing diverse audiences, advocating awareness, funding and volunteerism for homeless veterans' programs.

The Miss America Organization is the single largest provider of scholarships for women in the world, with scholarship assistance totaling nearly $35 million in 1999. It is a non-profit corporation based in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 454, wishes to thank The Schering Corporation for the educational grant that has helped make this campaign possible.

VVA Contact:             
Ken Moore                 
Media Contact:
Aimee White
Ruder Finn


VA National Hepatitis C Program New!

CDC - Viral Hepatitis - Resource Center

"Hepatitis Central" for Veterans

Hepatitis Foundation International