Susan Lennon MSW, LCSW Content Strategist
Communications Consultant
Specializing in Thought Leadership and B2B/B2C Marketing Communications

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Hepatitis C: It Kills as Many as HIV Does
USA Weekend Magazine, January 7, 2007
by Susan T. Lennon

 Called a “silent epidemic,” Hepatitis C (HCV) is the most common chronic blood-borne virus in America,  infecting about 3 million people. From 10% to 40% of infected people have no identifiable risk factors at all. A blood test is the way to diagnose it.

"The number of annual deaths from HCV is about the same as HIV,” notes Adrian Di Bisceglie, M.D. chief of hepatology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, “but you rarely hear about it, because people don’t feel sick.”

Hepatitis C is a lifelong infection that progresses slowly. Caught within the first six months, it is 90-100% curable. But usually it's discovered decades after exposure, when the liver is already damaged, and treatment is challenging.

The most common risk factor is injection drug use. “But you don’t have to be a drug addict to get it,” explains Di Bisceglie. Experimenting even once in your remote past puts you at risk, and this is a problem, he says, because it “stigmatizes the disease unnecessarily.”

A bit of additional info for readers:

Ask for a screening blood test if you:

  • Received a blood transfusion before 1992
  • Injected drugs into your blood stream
  • Snorted drugs, such as cocaine, through a straw or other sharp-edged tool  
  • Received an organ transplant before 1992
  • Are a health care worker who has been exposed to infected blood
  • Received clotting factor concentrates before 1987
  • Have hemophilia and received blood before 1992
  • Are receiving hemodialysis for kidney failure
  • Have raised liver enzymes
  • Had intimate contact with an infected person
  • Are in a low socioeconomic group

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