December 05, 2011
David Bernstein, MD
Hepatitis C kills more Americans every year than HIV--and almost 75 percent of the fatalities affect 45-to-64-year-olds, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. The research is based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s analysis of statistics from 1999 through 2007.
Hepatitis C is the most common blood-borne viral infection in the United States, affecting more than 4 million Americans. Four times more prevalent than HIV infection, hepatitis C is the most common indication for liver transplantation in the United States and a leading predisposing factor to the development of liver cancer.
Unfortunately, most people with hepatitis C don’t know they have it, since it is usually silent until complications develop. The infection, which is transmitted primarily through blood-to-blood contact, often leads to advanced liver disease and cirrhosis.
Anyone with a history of previous intravenous drug use, transfusion of blood or blood products prior to 1992, intranasal cocaine use, or tattoos should be checked for hepatitis C. In addition, anyone born between 1946 and 1964 should be screened for this disease.
The good news is that current therapies for hepatitis C cure most patients. These treatments consist of a combination of two or three medications that are given for a course of 24 to 48 weeks. Newer, more effective treatments are currently in development with the goal of improving overall cure rates while decreasing side effects and treatment duration.
North Shore-LIJ’s Division of Gastroentrology, Hepatology and Nutrition is a world leader in hepatitis C research and is actively involved in clinical trials. Patients or healthcare providers interested in hepatitis C clinical trials can contact Maly Tiev, NP, at 516-562-1364