Veterans’ high rates of HCV much worse than previously thought


download (2)Results from a large VA study provides evidence of severe HCV outbreaks in U. S. boomer veterans who visited the VA at least once in 2011.  They looked at lab results going back about 12 years. This table show the prevalence of HCV infection by birth year–with 1954 having the worst odds.

hcv birth va

Prevalence of Hepatitis C Virus Infection by Birth Year
VA Data

Black men in the boomer cohort were the hardest hit at 18.2%.  

hcv black

I’ll post the whole study when I get it from the VA.  (It’s currently on JAMA)

The study provides data for anti-HCV and HCV infections (page 2) for those in VA care in 2011 who were screened–about 53.4% of 2.8 million veterans.  This doesn’t include those in private care but the nuanced language is pessimistic.  If you think about veterans as a population/cultural group that then scattered (returned home) I think the word hyperendemic seems more suitable than the tamer “outbreak.”

We know that there are many methods of transmission for this opportunistic virus but there was a definite amplification during this period.  And no, black men did not join the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, go through boot camp and training hoping to get sent to Vietnam and shoot up cheap drugs while dodging bullets and missiles.  Those insulting stereotypes are what many esteemed researchers would like us to believe.

According to epidemiologists, HCV entered the United States during the slave trade.  The slave ship routes also explain the higher rates of Hispanic infections.  HCV was transmitted inefficiently from person-to-person for a long period. But then new types of health care services were invented amplifying the spread of HCV–and war activities provided perfect opportunities for transmissions:   Dirty blood was used in transfusions, the source of blood eventually came from a “closed loop” source, unsafe mass injections via jet injectors, multi-dose and dirty syringes were used, unsafe sex was engaged in, combat blood exposures were common. The tattoos, village barbers, sharing personal care items, surgeries, gamma globulin, dental procedures, lack of VA infection control, and so forth all combined to create this vile unhealthy and devastating crisis.   Good intentions led to misery and the medical cover-ups we still are dealing with.  Why do more males have HCV?  Well, males do risky things like join the military.

These ideas need to be repeated as the concepts become clearer and the facts are gradually illuminated by science because the information is being released piecemeal by public health professionals and other interested parties.

Ed. note. I have talked with numerous Veterans who eventually obtained their VA medical records and were shocked to discover VA had tested them in the early 2000s and never told them they were positive for HCV. Imagine a medical organization who couldn’t be bothered to notify a Veteran that he was dying from an insidious disease that could be cured (if Interferon could be called such.)

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4 Responses to Veterans’ high rates of HCV much worse than previously thought

  1. Frank says:

    From memory: VISNs have an ethical & legal obligation to report to patients adverse events with potential legal liability, and to refer them to remedial options such as 1138 & FTCA. No mention is made in 1050.1 of a statute of limitations.

  2. mark says:

    Slave Trade, I do not buy it, I still think it was made. Population Control You Know, THEY targeted Blacks, but everybody got it. All I know is there is Some Evil kind off stuff going on that We are not aware of, and the VA is right in the Middle of it. Some Day the Truth will come out, but will we be around to see it.

  3. Frank says:

    “Imagine a medical organization who couldn’t be bothered to notify a Veteran that he was dying from an insidious disease that could be cured (if Interferon could be called such.)”

    Might VA failure to notify a Veteran that he was dying from an insidious disease that could be cured be considered an “adverse event”? If so, take a close look at the requirements of VHA Handbook 1050.1.

    • Kiedove says:

      Frank, I haven’t looked up your reference yet but HCV infections resulting from all health
      care associated interventions are adverse events. Probably everyone whose only risk factor for HCV was the boot camp jet injectors (sometimes called jet gun injectors) should report this online to the FDA who regulates these devices. I think the fact that these transmissions occurred 40 years ago is irrelevant given the natural history of the virus. Since medical device manufacturers are still designing jet injectors–now with spacers they claim are safe–the FDA needs to be reminded of the dangers when dealing with viruses.

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