Department of Health expanding tests as part of hepatitis C investigation

BISMARCK The North Dakota Department of Health continues to investigate the outbreak of hepatitis C in the Minot area and has determined that additional people should be tested for the virus, according to Tracy Miller, state epidemiologist for the North Dakota Department of Health.

“We are obviously concerned about the number of people who have been infected in this outbreak,” said Miller. “The investigation is ongoing and we are committed to trying to find the source of the infections in order to prevent any further illness.”

The North Dakota Department of Health has identified a group of people who may have been exposed to the virus. The department has sent letters to specific people asking them to make an appointment for a blood test. Free testing will be arranged in early November.

The North Dakota Department of Health is the lead agency working with private, local, state and federal organizations in this hepatitis C investigation. As new information becomes available, the department will continue to communicate with those organizations and the public.

“Our first priority is the health and safety of the citizens of North Dakota,” said Miller. “We will continue the investigation as long as we need to, and we are very grateful for all the assistance we are receiving from other organizations.”

Hepatitis C is a disease caused by the hepatitis C virus that results in infection of the liver. It is primarily transmitted by blood-to-blood contact. As of today’s date, more than 350 people have been tested in the Minot area and 27 people have been identified as carrying the strain associated with this outbreak. Officials have identified approximately 230 additional individuals they are hoping to test during the current phase of the investigation.

Members of the public who have questions about either this outbreak or Hepatitis C in general can call the department’s Public Health Hotline toll-free at 1-866-207-2880. The hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Information is also available on the Department’s Facebook page and on Twitter, with the hashtag #ndhepc.