CARTERET COUNTY, N.C. (WNCT) — The Carteret County Health Department is working to keep everyone in the county healthy, including their low-income residents.

The department is now the third in the state that will offer free Hepatitis C treatment.

Registered nurse Amy Debruhl said, “it’s great that they can go there and do that. Because we don’t have anything I don’t think any closer than Greenville. And then they would usually have to have Medicaid or some sort of insurance in order to get the testing.”

Within the last year, the department has confirmed 296 cases in the county. There’s a reason that number is so high.

The department’s nursing director Kim Davis, “the opioid epidemic that we faced with the heroin addiction. Because that is the way that it’s transmitted. That’s one of the ways that it’s transmitted is through IV drug use.”

Treatment for the disease can be expensive. Before this program, patients who tested positive for Hepatitis C would either have to pay between 12 and 15 thousand dollars for treatment through a private care facility or travel hours away to get help.

Physician’s Assistant Donna Shelton said this will make a huge difference for patients in the county.

“They have funds available to treat the uninsured,” said Shelton, “and the people who are in poverty. And it saves their lives. And it stops the spread of the disease.”

People from the Baby-Boomer generation may also have been exposed to the disease.

“Baby Boomers,” said Davis, “born between 1945 and 1965, who may have had unsafe medical procedures or needle sticks back then may be walking around as chronic carriers and not even know it.”

If left untreated, Hepatitis C can lead to liver disease and even death.

You can schedule a test by calling the health department at (252) 728-8550.