The Risks Of Ignoring Hepatitis Infection

2010-01-24 |


How Are Hepatitis Rates Changing?

As late as 2007, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were indicating that the rate of Hepatitis C was decreasing and the rate had decreased by 90% between 1992 and 2007. In Australia, the University of New South Wales reported that the rate of new Hepatitis C infections had dropped by 50% between 1999 and 2009. In Canada, data from 1999 to 2006 showed a decrease in infections of more than 20%.

Unfortunately, this downward trend has reversed in some countries in the last few years. Between 2007 and 2008, the UK reported an annual increase in infections of 6%. In Canada, the rate of new infections has increased by 37% from 2006-2008. Within the US, no infection rate information has been published since 2007 so if similar increases are being seen, the US would not know.

In addition to these increased infection rates, what is equally unfortunate is that only 17% of Americans with Hepatitis C are receiving any of the various antiviral treatments according to a study by the University of Michigan. Despite the ability to eliminate the disease in 40-90% of cases and the ability to slow the rate of disease progression in cases where the disease is not curable, people are not being treated. With 49% of patients having not been told of their disease and another 24% not being prescribed antiviral drugs, a significant number of those with the condition are not receiving any meaningful form of treatment and also have a small risk of infecting others.

While the effects of Hepatitis C on the body do take years to accumulate, the Baby Boomers infected in the 70s and 80s who were under treated are now starting to become ill from the disease. In the US, the rates of liver cancer have tripled since the 1970s and in Canada, the rates have doubled in the last 5 years alone. Similarly, the rate of liver transplants rose by 25% from 2000 to 2007. In both countries, Hepatitis C infection is one of the major contributing causes.


To prevent significant health care costs and the early deaths of many people who do not even know they have Hepatitis C, more efforts in blood screening and use of antiviral drugs are required even for those who have had the disease for decades. When compared to the costs of surgery and organ transplants, the use of blood tests and medications is almost always a more cost effective solution. While ignorance was expected prior to the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus in the late 1980s, there is no excuse now given the scientific knowledge and medications that currently exist.

Have you been newly diagnosed with Hepatitis C or have a damaged liver from years with the disease? Share your experiences with others in the Hepatitis C forums.

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Category: Disease Information, Disease Prevention, Health Risks

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