WILLIAMSBURG, Ky.-- According to Kentucky One Health, the Bluegrass State leads the nation in the highest rate of Hepatitis C infections and has seven times the national average. To combat the virus, healthcare providers are reaching into some of the hardest hit areas, which are rural areas with limited access to healthcare. In Williamsburg, one family primary care practice has become the local hub for Hep C treatment, as part of the KHAMP (Kentucky Hepatitis Academic Mentorship Program) through the University of Louisville.
- Kentucky One Health ranks the Bluegrass State with the highest rate of Hepatitis C infections, at seven times the national average.
- Programs are reaching out to rural areas to treat people with the virus, like in Whitley County at Bryant Family Medicine.
- Healthcare providers recommend baby boomers be tested for Hep C, because they say 1 in 3 test positive.
Jill Bryant, APRN, walked Spectrum News 1 through her practice in her hometown of Williamsburg. The building sits directly beside a school, which she and her staff contract with to provide care for the students. She's also a primary care provider, and most recently has started screening and treating patients for Hepatitis C.
Her own personal story is the inspiration for the latest service.
"My story is what got me where I am today," says Bryant, "and that's why I tear up, because I started this because my son has Hepatitis C."
Her son has been in and out of treatment for drug addiction, and has been treated for Hepatitis C.
"My son was diagnosed with Hepatitis C a few years ago, and he does have a history of IV drug abuse, and he's been in and out of rehab. And I couldn't find anywhere to send him, so that's what [drew] my interest for Hepatitis C," she explains.
In rural Kentucky, many patients have nowhere else to turn than to Bryant Family Medicine. That's why she's here with KHAMP (Kentucky Hepatitis Academic Mentorship Program) with the University of Louisville.
Barbra Cave, APRN, works with KHAMP.
"So, we're trying to overcome the transportation barrier, the lack of specialist barrier and letting patients be treated as they are where they are by their primary care provider," says Cave. "The least we can do is help make them as safe as possible to help prevent some of the significant negative consequences..."
She's seeing the virus in baby boomers, and suddenly in younger people, too. The goal is to cure it before it damages the liver and leads to complications there like cirrhosis and cancer. Some of Bryant's successes in treating it here include her son.
"For me it's uh, I'm very passionate about my job," Bryant says.
At the clinic in Williamsburg. Bryant's staff have screened 142 people, found 85 positive for Hep C... and cured 7 so far. The nurse practitioners say baby boomers especially should be screened for Hepatitis C-- because one in three is infected. Of course, younger people are contracting it through needle use, tattoos and things like nail clippers and tooth brushes. Symptoms can include chronic fatigue, joint pains, depression.