VA Medical Center offers free Hep. C blood tests

Published: Jun. 8, 2016 at 5:27 PM PDT
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Hepatitis C has been called the silent killer. Most patients don’t know they have the virus for decades until the disease starts doing major damage to the liver. Those most at risk had a blood transfusion before 1992 or were born between 1945 and 1965. The Veterans Medical Center in Reno is showing great results with treatment and soon will be offering free blood tests for Veterans to see if they have Hepatitis C.

“Take it from me, the old treatments are terrible, the new treatments are extremely good,” says George Dilger, a veteran living in northern Nevada.

That was his reaction to the Hepatitis C treatment he received at the Veteran's Hospital in Reno.

Easy because he had undergone, unsuccessfully, interferon treatments for his Hepatitis--which he contracted in Viet Nam after a mortar shell injury where he required a blood transfusion.

“The treatment was 12 weeks, and again I still look back at that and think how lucky I was to have been put into the treatment,” says Dilger.

“They are ecstatic, everyone. It's just a feeling for gratitude, they feel like a weight has been lifted off their chest. It is just amazing to tell someone you are cured of a deadly disease,” says Kim Jacques, a VA Clinical Pharmacy Specialist who works with infectious disease patients, including those treated for Hepatitis C.

The program uses medications that eliminate the virus from the body completely in most cases.

“It is amazing to cure a person of a deadly disease with a simple pill. There is nothing like it in medicine,” says Dr. Charles Krasner, an infectious disease specialist with the VA Medical Center in Reno.

The VA Medical System is the largest treatment provider of Hepatitis C in the country. The system has been involved in the testing of effective Hepatitis C medications for several years. And now with additional financing and competition, they can treat six patients for what it costs to treat four.

An initial blood test is needed to see if you have the disease--more blood work may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. However, if the test is positive, veterans can qualify for treatment that so far in Reno has cured 167 patients.

Veterans can get a free blood test to detect Hepatitis C every Friday this summer at the VA Medical Center in Reno, beginning June 10, from 9:00-11:00 am in the primary care area of the hospital.

Technicians will draw blood which will determine if the patient has Hepatitis C. Those initial results will be available in 20 minutes.