U.S. Health Officials To Track
Down Millions Hep C Infected
Note: Why doesn't the government attempt to
track down the millions infected with HIV?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. health officials have pledged to try to track down millions of Americans who are infected with hepatitis C and do not know it. Hepatitis C is just one of several viruses in the alphabet soup of viruses in the hepatitis family. All strains attack the liver, causing symptoms ranging from jaundice, a yellowing of the skin, to liver cancer. Here is a brief description of them: Hepatitis A - The least severe of the hepatitis infections, hepatitis A can cause jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea. It is passed in contaminated food and water. Death is rare -- about 100 a year in the United States. There are an estimated 125,000 to 200,000 new hepatitis A infections every year in the United States. Hepatitis A often clears up on its own. Hepatitis B - One of the world's most common infectious diseases, hepatitis B affects about 350 million people and kills about one million people a year.
It is most commonly transmitted by sexual intercourse and intravenous drug use. There is a vaccine, and also a combined hepatitis A/hepatitis B vaccine. Hepatitis C - Only discovered in 1988, it is a leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and is the main cause of liver transplants in the United States. It is not as infectious as hepatitis A or B but is spread through blood and shared needles. Symptoms include nausea, jaundice, fever and tenderness around the liver -- but there are often no symptoms. There is no cure or vaccine but drugs such as interferon alfa and ribavirin seem to help. A report in January in the New England Journal of Medicine warned that people with hepatitis C faced a dramatically higher risk of dying if they eat food infected with hepatitis A. Hepatitis D - Associated with hepatitis B infection. People with both hepatitis B and D have an 80 percent chance of chronic liver disease. Drug users are the group at highest risk. Hepatitis E - Only three known strains have been identified globally.
It is a major cause of liver failure in developing nations. Passed in the feces, and blood, infection is devastating to pregnant women, killing 10 to 20 percent of women infected in their third trimester. Hepatitis G - Very rare, it causes up to 2,000 infections a year but most victims have no symptoms. It is transmitted in infected blood and repeated exposure to hepatitis C seems to be a risk factor.

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