Lack of Awareness May Spur Spread of Hep C

From Drugs.com - November 1, 2017

Lack of Awareness May Spur Spread of Hep C

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 1, 2017 -- Only about half of people in the United States with hepatitis C know they have the curable disease, new data shows.

That lack of awareness contributes to increasing rates of hepatitis C infection and means the country is unlikely to meet its own or World Health Organization target dates for eliminating the disease, researchers said.

Hepatitis C can cause liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer and led to about 23,000 deaths in the United States in 2016 -- a toll that's rising every year, according to the data gathered by researchers with the Polaris Observatory and the Center for Disease Analysis Foundation in Colorado.

Currently, the number of hepatitis C deaths in the United States each year is greater than the number of HIV-related deaths. Since 2012, hepatitis C deaths have outnumbered deaths from all other reportable infectious diseases combined, the researchers said.

They found that, of an estimated 2.7 million people in the United States with hepatitis C, just 55 percent know they are infected, largely because the disease is mostly symptomless and there is a lack of routine screening.

As a result, many people with hepatitis C do not receive highly effective cures that can eliminate the virus and prevent liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer.

The data was released Tuesday at the World Hepatitis Summit in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"The fact is that even when people are diagnosed, they are not being referred and often do not get treated," researcher Homie Razavi said in a news release about the summit.

"There are many possible reasons for patients not accessing treatment," he said. They include the fact that in two-thirds of U.S. states, Medicaid treatment is restricted to people with advanced disease, preventing access to treatment for those who do not have private insurance.


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