Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski,
who sponsored New York State legislation for free one time testing for
Hepatitis C, is being honored by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on
Thursday for his efforts. In June, the Assembly and Senate passed the nation’s first
legislation requiring primary care doctors
to offer the Hepatitis C test to persons born between 1945 and 1965. Hepatitis C is a serious liver
disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus and as many as
one in 30 baby boomers born during that time period may have it.
On Wednesday, the same day Zebrowski’s CDC honor was announced, the Rockland County Health Department released information about free Hepatitis C testing available to residents born during that 20 year period. Baby boomers can schedule the test at Rockland ARCS at 86 East Route 59 in Spring Valley. Residents can contact ARCS at 845-471-0707, extension 12 to schedule an appointment Monday through Friday.
“Hepatitis C has become an undercover epidemic,” said Zebrowski, whose father died from the disease. “My family and I have seen firsthand how this disease can quietly attack a person's liver, without symptoms, and can become un-treatable in its advanced stages.”
A blood test, called an antibody test, shows if a person has ever been infected with the Hepatitis C virus. If the antibody test is positive, a follow-up blood test is needed to see if they are still infected. Baby boomers have a higher incidence of the disease than any other age group and as many as 75 percent may be unaware of their condition.
According to the health department, most infection may have occurred in the 1970s and 1980s when rates of Hepatitis C were the highest. Since people with Hepatitis C can live for decades without symptoms, and eight out of 10 remain infected for life.
Hepatitis C is mainly spread through contact with blood from an infected person, which in some cases was caused by contaminated blood and blood products before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992. Other people may have become infected from injecting drugs. People with Hepatitis C often have no symptoms and the longer people live with Hepatitis C, the more likely they are to develop serious, life-threatening liver disease or liver cancer.
On Friday, Zebrowksi will attend a meeting at the White House to discuss strategies for combatting the increase in Hepatitis C cases. Zebrowski and Senate sponsor Kemp Hannon were selected for recognition by the Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition, a public-private partnership established by the CDC Foundation that is comprised of advocacy groups and healthcare industry leaders.
“The research and hard work of the CDC is what gave me the information necessary to author and push this bill,” said Zebrowski. “In my remarks before the Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition, I hope to encourage other states to follow New York's lead, which could get hundreds of thousands of people tested and into treatment.”