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Thousands in New Mexico could benefit from free Hepatitis C testing

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Thousands in New Mexico could benefit from free Hepatitis C testing

May 15, 2024 | 5:30 am ET
By Austin Fisher
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Thousands of New Mexico could benefit from free Hepatitis C testing
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A nurse performs a rapid test for AIDS, syphilis and hepatitis in a woman. (Photo via Getty Images)

State health officials are encouraging all New Mexico adults to get free diagnostic testing for Hepatitis C in order to prevent it from spreading.

Federal guidelines under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Hepatitis C (HCV) testing at least once in a lifetime for everyone aged 18 or older, and for all pregnant people during each pregnancy.

The New Mexico Department of Health on Tuesday sent out information to access locations about where to get an HCV test, along with other public health services.

An estimated 25,800 people in New Mexico have HCV but do not have treatment, according to the state’s HCV elimination plan published in 2022.

State health officials cite CDC guidance, saying more than 90 percent of people infected with HCV can be cured with eight to 12 weeks of oral therapy.

However, a study the CDC published in June found a far smaller proportion of people in the U.S. actually get treatment.

The Daily Montanan reports in the decade after new antiviral treatments were introduced, only about a third of people with an initial HCV diagnosis cleared the virus, either through treatment or the virus resolving on its own.

Without treatment, HCV infection can lead to severe liver disease, liver cancer, and even death, the health department said in a news release. Symptoms may include fatigue, yellow skin or eyes, brain fog, stomach pain and joint pain, according to state health officials.