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Hepatitis C Death Rate Higher Than HIV, Tuberculosis

Update Date: May 05, 2016 06:44 AM EDT

Despite best efforts to try and bring down Hepatitis C-related cases, deaths continue to rise tied up to the disease. In fact an alarming rise saw it reach an all-time high in 2014 as revealed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over HIV and Tuberclosis.

This is despite advances in medication being rendered in an effort to safeguard the public. Hepatitis C is a viral disease that is associated with liver inflammation where chronic and untreated cases could eventually lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure.

In the United States alone, 3.5 million Americans are believed to be living with chronic Hepatitis C where half of the people in the group may not even be aware that they are infected.

"Not everyone is getting tested and diagnosed, people don't get referred to care as fully as they should, and then they are not being placed on treatment," said Dr. John Ward, director of CDC's division of viral hepatitis.

Hepatitis C stems from various means that is normally tied up with blood. That includes infection resulting from the sharing of needles or related equipment to inject illegal drugs, tattoo piercing if the equipment used is not properly cleaned and mother to child transmission during birth.

The virus is not something that can be contracted through casual contact such as coughs, sharing food/utensils and hugging or kissing. Sexual intercourse is known to be one possible means to contract it though the probability is considered small unless it involved multiple partners.

Screening is a must for most though a treatment was released some years ago. This involved weekly injections of pegylated interferon and ribavirin, a treatment associated with severe side effects that was deemed only 50% effective.

While that seemed to be something that could be of big help, the cost of using it comes at a pretty steep price.

A three month supply of the drugs, cost between $80,000 and $120,000. With the hefty price, insurance companies and state Medicaid programs were forced to limit treatment to those with the most severe cases of liver disease. So in all, it was seen merely as a partial solution.

Unless a proper recourse that involves screening and affordable medication comes around, the number of people suffering from Hepatitis C is likely to swell.

"Due to limited screening and underreporting, we estimate the number of new infections is closer to 30,000 per year," Ward said. "So both deaths and new infections are on the rise."

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