The New River Valley has elevated rates of acute hepatitis C and numbers are increasing every year.
Antonio Brown Jr., a public health associate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), works to prevent hepatitis C transmission in the New River Valley.
During his two-year fellowship with the New River Health District Academic Health Department and Virginia Tech he will develop a comprehensive hepatitis C prevention plan. His work includes conducting interviews, identifying and investigating new cases and providing prevention education.
“Since 2012, more than 1,000 cases of hepatitis C have been reported in the New River Health District,” said District Health Director Noelle Bissell, M.D. “We have seen significant numbers of cases of acute hepatitis C infection linked to tattoo parlors, the use of homemade tattoo guns at parties and in people who report more than 10 sex partners. We’re also noticing a trend in cases associated with intravenous drug abuse, particularly methamphetamine, and in pregnant women and women of childbearing age.”
“Hepatitis C can be transmitted in multiple ways,” said Brown, “through unprotected sex, sharing razors or needles or from tattoos. We’ll use GIS (geographic information systems) technology to identify clusters and hotspots and develop effective means of stopping transmission, with the goal of preventing new cases.”
“Why do we have such high levels of hepatitis C in the New River Valley? That’s what we are working to figure out,” he concludes.
Brown, a Baltimore native, holds a Bachelor of Health Education and a Master of Public Health from Morgan State University, where he was a member of Eta Sigma Gamma, the health education honor society. He has worked in community health outreach at Johns Hopkins University and in a “Safe Streets” violence prevention program at the Baltimore City Health Department.
CDC public health associates work in a variety of public health settings and programs focusing on the nation’s most pressing prevention and treatment priorities to become the “next generation” of public health professionals.
Associates gain real-world experience in communicable diseases and chronic disease prevention, health promotion, environmental health, quarantine, immunizations, injury and violence prevention, maternal and child health and public health preparedness. They also learn professionalism, communication and cultural competency, creating the foundation for a successful long-term public health career.
Associates’ projects include Ebola and Zika interventions, electronic testing results and records, reducing sports-related concussions and improving brain health and increasing childhood vaccination rates.
For more information, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/new-river or call the New River Health District at 585-3300.
— Submitted by