According to a new CDC report, only half of those in the US who have ever been infected with hepatitis C ever get the appropriate testing needed for the disease that destroys the liver. Health officials released the results of the study on Tuesday and concern is high.
Testing for hepatitis C is a two step process. First, people are tested for antibodies in their systems if they test positive; they get a referral for the second, more sophisticated test required to determine if they have the virus.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that many who have had a blood test that shows that they have been infected with hepatitis C do not go to get the follow up tests that are essential to determine whether they will need treatment.
According to the CDC director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, “Complete testing is critical to ensure that those who are infected receive the care and treatment for hepatitis C that they need in order to prevent liver cancer and other serious and potentially deadly health consequences,”
The study was published in Vital Signs, a CDC publication. Scientists examined data gathered from eight different parts of the country. Of the cases of hepatitis C that were detected with testing for the antibodies, only an estimated 51 percent also included results from follow up testing to confirm current infection. The means that many people did not know if they were, in fact, still infected with hep C.
The CDC is issuing guidelines that encourage doctors to do testing to follow up on patients so they can ensure that they get the treatment they probably need.
Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus. It kills over 15,000 people in the US every year, mostly from illnesses related to hepatitis C such as liver cancer and cirrhosis.
Very few people who test positive for hepatitis C antibodies can take care of the virus without treatment, but an estimated 80 percent of people that test positive stay infected and often develop many complications from the disease.
Just in August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued fresh guidelines that recommended that every baby boomer be tested for the disease, stating that studies suggest that over two million people in the United States who were born between 1945 and 1965 are potentially infected with Hepatitis C.
In the past, the CDC recommended that only those who had confirmed known risk factors for the disease be tested. It has estimated that about 3.2 million Americans have a chronic infection of Hepatitis C.
The new testing guidelines may be beneficial in helping people to get proper treatment with new advances in medical therapies that have been shown to cure about three quarters of infections. In fact, there are two new drugs for the treatment of Hepatitis C that show promise.