Hepatitis C is defined as a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. The virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis which ranges in severity from mild to severe and lifelong disease. According to the WHO, about 71 million people in the world have chronic hepatitis C while 399,000 patients die from this disease each year. The hepatitis C infections show no signs of slowing down. The latest report confirms that rates of this disease reached a 15-year high.
Hepatitis C in the US
Additionally, limited surveillance resources led to underreporting of hepatitis C cases meaning that reported cases don’t really depict the seriousness of the situation. In 2010, 850 cases of hepatitis C were reported and 2436 in 2015, but the CDC estimates that 34,000 new cases of this virus actually occurred in 2015 among US population.
CDC also reports that hepatitis C kills more Americans than any form of infectious diseases. About 20,000 Americans died due to hepatitis C in 2015. The vast majority of deaths occurred in people who were 55 and older. The most recent report also shows that a growing number of hepatitis C cases affect the young population.
Hepatitis C among Young People
Federal health officials found that new cases of hepatitis C virus infections are increasing among young people. What’s more, the highest prevalence of new cases is among young adults aged between 20 and 29.
The enhanced prevalence of this serious infection among young people is primarily due to the increasing injection drug use which is strongly associated with growing opioid epidemic among Americans. The rise in hepatitis C cases among the young population is explained by the fact that the virus itself is spread by sharing drugs and needles, the stick of a contaminated needle, and through sexual intercourse.
It is important to bear in mind that although new cases of hepatitis C affect younger population primarily, the vast majority of patients with this virus are baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965. In fact, they are six times more likely to be infected with this virus than other age groups.
Hepatitis C among Pregnant Women
Researchers from CDC made yet another shocking discovery. Besides the elevating rates of hepatitis C among young people, they also discovered the increasing rates of this virus among women of childbearing age. A child can catch the virus if born to an infected mother. This means that infected women of childbearing age are putting the youngest generation at risk, which is truly frightening.
Although the effective treatments for hepatitis C do exist and they can cure the infection while preventing its transmission to partners and children, a lot of people who need these treatments can’t get them. The reason for that is quite simple – they can’t afford these expensive treatments. This only depicts the growing need to make these treatments accessible to socioeconomic groups that need it the most.
The most recent report published by CDC showed that rates of hepatitis C hit the 15-year high and they tripled over a five-year period. Although the majority of hepatitis C-infected individuals are baby boomers, the increasing number of cases affects young population and women of childbearing age due to drug use.