Associated Press Published

West Virginia Fights Virus by Launching Hepatitis C Program

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An initiative to combat the rise of hepatitis C infections has launched in West Virginia.

News outlets report a five-year program called HepConnect launched Wednesday at West Virginia University. It was created by California-based biotech company Gilead Sciences.

Gilead Executive Director of Government Affairs Derek Spencer says HepConnect has three purposes: improving hepatitis C detection, reducing harm through education and improving health care infrastructure.

The opioid epidemic is partially responsible for the virus’ spread. Spencer says 2.4 million people in the U.S. are living with hepatitis C and 50 percent aren’t aware they’re infected. He says the Appalachian region saw a 300 percent increase in the virus between 2006 and 2012.

About $11.3 million is being dedicated to HepConnect, which already launched in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. It’s launching in North Carolina next week.