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More than 4
million Americans have hepatitis C

More than 4
million Americans have hepatitis C

New findings from a nationwide study indicate that 4.1 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C virus and many of these patients have chronic infection, the leading reason for liver transplantation. About 5% of people with chronic HCV will die.

Gregory L. Armstrong of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and colleagues analyzed data for 15,079 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2002. Participants answered detailed questions about their health and lifestyles, then submitted blood samples for HCV testing and liver enzyme analysis. The rate of HCV infection was 1.6%, down from 1.8% a decade ago, and 1.3% of all subjects had chronic infection. People in their 40s had the highest rate of HCV infection--4.3%, the researchers reported.

Injection drug use was the biggest risk factor for HCV infection: Almost half of infected participants reported injecting drugs. Most injection drug users said they had not used drugs for at least one year prior to the survey. Other significant risk factors included blood transfusion before 1992 and having 20 or more lifetime sexual partners, said the report. The previous National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey was conducted from 1988 to 1994. (Reuters)

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