Ohio: State Prisons Chief Says Hepatitis Likely to Be an Increasing Problem
July 8, 2003
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Reginald Wilkinson said recently that hepatitis C is likely to be an increasing problem among inmates. Testing and treatment of prisoners will cost Ohio $3.9 million this year -- a little more than 3 percent of the state prison system's medical budget of $118.4 million. "We're more concerned about the future costs when we are treating thousands of cases instead of dozens of cases," said Wilkinson.Adapted from:
The department said 2,597 inmates -- about 6 percent of the total prison population of 45,216 -- are infected with HCV, a potentially fatal viral liver disease. But national estimates by CDC indicate the actual number of infected prisoners could be as high as 20 percent.
Only 16 Ohio inmates, clustered at three prisons, are undergoing treatment for the disease. Treatment can cost the state as much as $25,000 per patient per year. "We're doing more than we used to do," Wilkinson said. "We have to draw the line somewhere."
State prisons do no full-scale testing for the disease. They follow federal guidelines that recommend testing only when a prisoner has high risk factors or specifically requests it. Wilkinson said treatment is not usually offered if an inmate will be released in less than 18-24 months from the time of diagnosis, because it would not be effective. Using the example of another blood-borne disease, Wilkinson said, "We cannot afford to give the same treatment Magic Johnson gets for his HIV for every inmate that has HIV."
As of April, all 34 Ohio prisons and prison medical centers reported inmates who either have active hepatitis C or who tested positive for HCV. However, Ohio State Penitentiary, Noble Correctional Facility and Southern Ohio Correctional Facility are the only institutions where HCV cases are being treated.
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.