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Am J Prev Med. 2011 Mar;40(3):345-52. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.11.019.

Using mass media and the Internet as tools to diagnose hepatitis C infections in the general population.

Author information

  • 1Cluster Infectious Diseases, Public Health Service of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. fzuure@ggd.amsterdam.nl

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Many individuals with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection are undiagnosed.

PURPOSE:

This study describes the development and the use and outcomes of a mass media campaign, combined with an Internet risk assessment and an Internet-mediated blood-testing procedure for HCV to identify individuals infected with HCV in the general population.

METHODS:

From April 2007 to December 2008, individuals in HCV risk groups were referred to an online, previously validated risk-assessment questionnaire at www.heptest.nl. Individuals at risk could download a referral letter for a free, anonymous HCV blood test in a nonclinical setting. Test results could be obtained online, 1 week later, using a personal log-in code. Anti-HCV-positive participants were requested to visit the Public Health Service for confirmation and RNA testing. Chronically HCV-infected individuals were referred for treatment. Data were analyzed in 2009-2010.

RESULTS:

The website attracted 40,902 visitors. Of the 9653 who completed the questionnaire, 2553 were at risk for HCV (26.4%). Main reported risk factors were a blood transfusion prior to 1992 and noninjecting drug use. Of the 1480 eligible for the blood test, 420 opted for testing (28%). HCV antibodies were detected in 3.6% (n=15, 95% CI=2.1%, 5.7%); of the 12 with a chronic HCV infection, six began treatment.

CONCLUSIONS:

Internet-mediated risk-based testing for HCV has proved to be a feasible and effective strategy to identify undiagnosed HCV infection in the general population. All HCV-infected individuals belonged to hard-to-reach populations. Test uptake was 28%, which is high for an online project that includes blood testing. Because Internet-mediated testing is low-cost, this strategy holds promise for future screening.

Copyright © 2011 American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

PMID:
21335268
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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