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Philly To Provide for Hepatitis C

January 25, 2000

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The city will provide millions of dollars to help firefighters and paramedics who have contracted the deadly hepatitis C virus, the mayor said Monday.

Mayor John F. Street said the city is committing enough money to treat up to 200 firefighters and paramedics a year, at a cost of about $3 million this fiscal year. Street said the city is prepared to assume long-term treatment costs.

The union representing the firefighters and paramedics said 130 of them have hepatitis C, and that the number suggests it is a job-related condition. The disease can remain dormant up to 20 years, so many emergency workers could have contracted the disease before masks and gloves became standard gear, the union said.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus of the liver that can be fatal if untreated.

Risk factors include the use of injected drugs, blood transfusions, organ or tissue transplants prior to 1990, unsafe sexual practices and getting a tattoo or body piercing under unsanitary conditions.