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October 16, 2018

Jackson County Department of Public Health Welcomes a Hepatitis C Bridge Counselor

The Jackson County Department of Public Health welcomes Sally Sutton as the new Regional Hepatitis C (HCV) Bridge Counselor, serving the seven counties west of Asheville (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon, Swain, Jackson, Haywood, and Transylvania).  Sutton will work to address the burden of Hepatitis C by providing disease specific education to people infected with HCV, linking people with HCV to treatment providers, and collaborating with the community to build partnerships and resource networks.  This HCV pilot program is the first of its kind and will draw on past successes of HIV Bridge Counselors.

 

As native of Western North Carolina, Sutton has firsthand experience working with the local community.  She has served the Health Department as a social worker for 12 years in the Care Coordination for Children case management program.  She is familiar with case management, resource development, and coordinating services for those in need. “I’m very excited to be at the ground level of this program,” said Sutton. “I hope that we can make a difference in this epidemic.”

 

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and the most common blood-borne infection in the United States, is most frequently transmitted through injection drug use. Seventy-five to eighty-five percent (75%‒85%) of those infected with hepatitis C will go on to develop chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis C prevalence, estimated to be 1.1% of the population, may account for more than 110,000 infections in North Carolina. Fifty percent of these infections are likely undiagnosed. Since 2009 North Carolina has observed a three-fold increase in acute hepatitis C cases, a majority of those cases are identified in the far western counties, suggesting an increased risk in that region.  This can lead to serious health problems including liver disease, liver failure, and liver cancer.  Unlike hepatitis A and B, there is no vaccine available for hepatitis C.

 

A Hepatitis C Bridge Counselor is a content resource and a pivotal role in our public health prevention infrastructure. The Hepatitis C Bridge Counselor will work regionally to identify and build county and regional partnerships, facilitating community engagement, and link persons identified with hepatitis C infection to providers for care and curative treatments. The hepatitis C Bridge Counselor position is supported by the collaborative efforts between Jackson County Health Department, multiple health departments in western North Carolina and the Division of Public Health to support viral hepatitis prevention activities related to prevention messages, screening and testing for HCV, and linkage to care.

 

For questions regarding the new program, contact Sally Sutton at 828-587-8291 or visit http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/hep_c.html.

 

For more information on hepatitis C, visit:

https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/

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