Nearly 3 million Americans living with Hepatitis C

Nearly 3 million Americans living with Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is on the decline, but it's not necessary good, according to researchers.

A recent study reveals the number of Americans infected with Hepatitis C is on the decline, but experts say the decline is due to those infected with the devastating disease dying from it.

Hepatitis C primarily affects the liver. After several years of infection, many people develop cirrhosis, a condition in which healthy liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue — or fibrosis — and regenerative nodules form, causing the degeneration of the liver. This often leads to other complications such as liver cancer, liver failure, and eventually death.

The recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey included thousands of participants, of which, researchers from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention were able to estimate that 1 percent of the population — 2.68 million people — are currently living with Hepatitis C, while an additional 900,000 people are estimated to have once had the disease but are no longer actively infected.

The survey, conducted over the span of seven years between 2003 and 2010, shows a decrease in the numbers of both currently and previously infected people, but experts say that the decline is not necessarily a good one. A previous study conducted between 1999 and 2002 showed  an estimated 1.6 percent of Americans had previous or current Hepatitis C infections, while a 1988 to 1994 study showed a 1.8 percent infection rate.

After analyzing the data, experts say that while a decline in the percentage of people with both past and current cases of the infection may appear to be a positive, this is not the case. Experts explain that if treatments for the infection were curing victims of hepatitis C, there would be a decrease in the number of people currently infected with the disease and an increase in the number of people infected. However, both groups of people, those who were previously infected and those who are currently infected, are declining at the same rate, leading experts to believe that the mortality rate among those currently infected is increasing.

Experts in the field believe that hepatitis C is currently responsible for the death or more people each year than HIV.

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