TALLAHASSEE — After admitting they failed to adequately screen prisoners for the highly contagious disease, Florida corrections officials are challenging a federal judge’s order that found the agency was “deliberately indifferent” to inmates infected with hepatitis C.

The state Department of Corrections recently filed a notice of appeal at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the latest move in a drawn-out legal battle over the state’s handling of thousands of inmates with the liver-damaging disease.

Last month, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker expanded the number of inmates ordered to receive potentially expensive care, following up on a previous order that mandated the state properly treat inmates with the virus.

Walker’s April 18 ruling added prisoners at the early stages of hepatitis C, a move that could add between 20,000 and 40,000 more inmates to about 7,000 already ordered to receive treatment, according to attorneys who filed the class-action lawsuit in 2017.

Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office, which represents the Department of Correction, filed the notice recently at the Atlanta-based appeals court, saying the state intends to appeal the class certification of the lawsuit, Walker’s final order, and “all previous rulings, opinions and orders entered in this case.” As is common, the notice does not detail the state’s full legal arguments.

The notice of appeal came after corrections officials decided not to contest a preliminary injunction ordered by Walker in December 2017. In that injunction, the judge ordered the state to come up with a plan to properly treat inmates and file monthly status reports showing the agency’s compliance with his mandate.

Since then, the corrections agency screened more than 55,000 inmates, identified more than 7,185 as having chronic hepatitis C and started or completed treating 4,901 inmates, Walker wrote in last month’s final order.

In addition, the corrections department “has also recognized some of its past wrongs,” such as admitting that it “was not adequately monitoring all inmates” infected with the disease prior to the preliminary injunction, Walker wrote.

The agency blamed the dearth of treatment on “lack of funding,” noting that a single course of treatment may cost as much as $37,000 or more, according to court records.

This month, lawmakers passed a budget for the upcoming 2019-2020 fiscal year that earmarked $50 million to treat inmates with hepatitis C. The budget is pending approval by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Department of Corrections had sought nearly $37 million to address hepatitis C treatment before Walker’s April order expanded the number of inmates.