In his younger days, the man served in the army. He had the military tattoos to prove it, too. Now in his 50s, with a closer eye on his health, this Estonian man visited his doctor for a checkup. His doctor told him that he could get a hepatitis C test.
The test result was positive, which caught him completely by surprise. Worse still, he also had liver fibrosis, an advanced stage of liver damage his doctors say was caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). He’ll never know for sure, but he could only assume that his tattoos from decades ago were the culprit. His HCV test was made possible by AbbVie Estonia, which supported a new HCV screening project called From Micro to Macro.
The project’s goal sounds simple: to understand the true prevalence of HCV in Estonia. But one of the biggest problems facing HCV elimination is finding HCV-positive people so they can be connected to care. The lack of HCV awareness from health care providers in primary care remains the bottleneck of an HCV free Estonia. Many countries around the world wrestle with this problem, too.
In partnership with SYNLAB Estonia, the biggest medical laboratory in the country, general practitioners (GPs) could offer their patients HCV tests through this project. The risk groups were determined by the questionnaire, and an HCV test was automatically ordered for patients whose routine bloodwork showed elevated liver enzymes (ALAT/ASAT).
The screening project has been a resounding success, testing more than 9,000 patients with risk factors, such as blood donors before 1994 (donor blood wasn’t tested for HCV until then) or elevated liver enzymes.