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Report: Hepatitis C affects 2.7 million Americans

Friday March 7, 2014
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A survey of U.S. households conducted between 2003 and 2010 revealed that approximately 2.7 million U.S. residents are infected with chronic hepatitis C virus, according to a new report.

This figure marks a decrease by about 500,000 cases identified by a similar analysis conducted between 1999 and 2000, according to the new report, which was published in the March 4 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Treatment can cure the disease and decrease risk for death, yet many persons infected with HCV do not know they have it, according to background information in the report. Currently more people in the U.S. die from HCV than from HIV infection. Knowledge of the number of people with HCV infection is critical for public health and policy planning.

Investigators conducted a nationally representative household survey to estimate the prevalence of HCV and to identify risk factors for infection. They found that the estimated prevalence of chronic HCV infection in the U.S. is about 2.7 million. The decrease from the previous survey could be attributed from deaths due to the disease, they noted.

Risk factors (injection drug use, having had a blood transfusion before 1992) essentially are unchanged from previous periods. Because only about half of infected individuals reported having at least one of these risk factors, risk-based screening might not be the best way to identify chronically ill people, the researchers noted.

Because baby boomers are six times more likely than other adults to be infected, the CDC recommends a one-time screening for all people born between 1945 and 1965. The authors wrote that information from this survey will help to inform the design of programs for HCV screening and linking patients to care and treatment.

Study abstract: http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1834167


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