Alarming Number of Hepatitis C Carriers in Korea Living Without Treatment

New data reveals only a portion of hepatitis C positive individuals receive treatment.

New data reveals that an estimated 230,000 to 250,000 hepatitis C (HCV)-positive individuals in Korea live without undergoing any form of treatment, reported The Chosun Ilbo.

This number comes as no surprise to the Korean government, because they have known about this for 3 to 4 years, and made no efforts to address it. The government data shows that an estimated 300,000 people in Korea live with HCV, but only 45,000 to 70,000 were treated from 2005 to 2012 on national medical insurance.

“That means 230,000 to 255,000 of those infected with hepatitis C either don’t know about their condition or can’t get treatment,” said Saenuri Party lawmaker Kim Myung-yeon in the report, who received the data material from the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

A major concern regarding this issue is that HCV-positive individuals may unknowingly infect others, especially those who are asymptomatic. According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), approximately 55 to 85% of people who test positive for hepatitis C become chronic patients.

Furthermore, about 15% to 30% of patients end up developing liver cancer or cirrhosis of the liver within 20 years.

“Some people who contract hepatitis C show symptoms of jaundice, fatigue, indigestion, and discomfort in the stomach,” said a KCDC official in the report. “But most don’t show any symptoms, so more than half find out about their infection only when they develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.”