More people are dying in the U.S. from hepatitis C than from AIDS, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. More than 3.2 million Americans have the hepatitis virus, which can cause chronic infection of the liver and eventually lead to liver failure.
Hepatitis C death rates climbed to almost 5 per 100,000 in 2007, from fewer than 3 per 100,000 in 1999. In the same time period, the HIV-AIDS death rate dropped to slightly more than 4 per 100,000 from more than 6 per 100,000.
"The declines in HIV reflect the accomplishments in building a public health response to the epidemic that improved screening and provided means of access to effective treatment," said Dr. John W. Ward, director of the Division of Viral Hepatitis at the CDC and author of the study. A similar program for hepatitis C would be similarly helpful, he said.
The disease is most commonly spread by exposure to infected blood. Intravenous drug abuse is the most common method of transmission, reports MedicineNet.com.
Ward said there is now a treatment "that was about 70 effective at clearing the virus from the body, but, he said, most infected people are unaware of their condition and do not receive treatment," reports Nicholas Bakalar for The New York Times. (Read more)