CDC: 150 Percent Increase in Hepatitis C Virus Cases in U.S. – 3.5 Million Infected

Penny Starr | August 3, 2016 | 11:45am EDT
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(AP Photo)

( – At a briefing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, experts on the hepatitis C virus said it is spreading, with a 150 percent increase in diagnosed cases in recent years in the United States and some 3.5 million Americans infected with the blood-borne disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that deaths from HCV increased from 11,501 in 2003 to 19,659 in 2014, making it the No. 1 infectious disease killer, according to CDC statistics distributed at the briefing.

“Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV),” the CDC literature stated. “Today, most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.”

“The best way to prevent Hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injecting drugs,” the CDC literature stated.

Babies born to mothers infected with HCV also can become infected, and the disease can be transmitted through sexual contact and from equipment contaminated with infected blood such as razors or toothbrushes, according to the CDC.

Documents distributed at the briefing compiled by the AIDS Institute, the host of the briefing, stated that people with HIV are at greater risk for acquiring HCV. According to the CDC, 50 to 90 percent of HIV-infected persons who use injection drugs are also infected with the hepatitis C virus.

One of the experts who spoke at the briefing, Dr. John Ward, director of the Division of Viral Hepatitis at CDC, said the health organization views HCV as an “urgent and critical” health crisis in the United States.

The good news at the briefing was that, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, with new medication, 80 percent of HCV infections are curable; 80 percent of new HCV infections are preventable; and the elimination of HCV is achievable.

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