DHHR's laboratory office told local health officials it had run out of kits in an Oct. 17 letter.
"With our deepest apologies to our customers, the WV Office of Laboratory Services is temporarily ceasing HCV testing," the letter said, using the acronym for "hepatitis C virus."
The letter is unsigned. The head of the laboratory and a DHHR spokeswoman did not return messages Monday seeking comment.
The letter does not make clear what local health officials are supposed to do in the meantime, particularly if there is a suspected outbreak.
"My instinct is if we were unable to test for that, we would seek outside sources, which would most likely be CDC," Jordan said, referring to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state's laboratory services office blamed purchasing problems. The letter said officials had been trying to contract for new test kits for the past two years, "but this process has been met with many obstacles."
"The HCV kit contract previously in place expired earlier this year," the letter said. "The Office of Laboratory Services had planned for this well in advance but requests submitted to renew the HCV contract were rejected by various levels of purchasing thus resulting in disruption of HCV services."
State documents show two bids to buy new kits were scrapped this year because of problems with the bids the state received.
On Feb. 23, the head of the state's lab, Dr. Andrea Labik, wrote to Jo Bess, a DHHR buyer.
Labik told Bess only California-based Bio-Rad had bid on a statewide contract for testing supplies, including kits to test for HIV and several forms of hepatitis. Bio-Rad held the most recent statewide laboratory supply contract.
"This was the only bid received and they do not meet all the specifications and requirements," Labik wrote.
She asked for the bidding process to be canceled and for the state to try again. The contract is worth about $140,000 a year.
It was re-bid starting in late April.
There were problems the second time around, too.
Neither Bio-Rad nor Illinois-based Abbot Diagnostics met the specifications, according to a June 19 letter from Dondeena McGraw to Bess. Namely, bid documents show Abbot didn't meet all the technical specifics and Bio-Rad would not accept the state's terms and conditions.
At one point in early June, shortly before the second bid had to be scrapped, Bess suggested the state do a no-bid contract to allow Bio-Rad to keep doing business with the state.
"Don't know if that will fly, but we can sure try," Bess wrote to other purchasing officials.
There were about 2,000 newly diagnosed cases of hepatitis C in West Virginia in 2010, according to preliminary data from the state Bureau of Public Health.
The disease can be sexually transmitted and can be caught through drug injection. It's usually a silent disease with no symptoms at first for most people, but eventually it can cause liver disease and cancer.