More Awareness of Hepatitis C Patients Needed

December 24, 2014
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

A new study has revealed that many patients infected with the hepatitis C virus do not seek treatment and become lost in the different stages of health care to manage the disease.

A new study has revealed that many patients infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) do not seek treatment and become lost in the different stages of health care to manage the disease.

The study, which was published in Hepatology, emphasizes the need for more awareness of HCV testing, referral, support, and care.

HCV is widespread, affecting nearly 150 million in the world, according to World Health Organization figures. Nevertheless, many patients with HCV are unaware that they are infected. In fact, some studies suggest that between 50% to 70% of patients with an acute infection show no symptoms and may not know they have HCV until the disease has caused major problems, such as liver cancer or liver failure.

The researchers defined the most at-risk individuals as those who inject drugs or undergo a blood infusion, children whose mothers were infected, and adults born between 1945 and 1965.

Researchers examined data from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s hepatitis surveillance information, which spans from 2010 to 2013. They found that 13,596 Philadelphia residents tested positive for HCV, but only 27% of them were receiving care and just 15% had been treated or were currently undergoing treatment.

“Our findings show that many HCV patients are lost at each stage of the health care continuum from screening, to disease confirmation, to care and treatment,” said Kendra Viner, PhD, MPH, from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, in a press release. “The fact that so few patients with HCV are making it to treatment underscores the need to build awareness among at-risk groups of the importance of screening and continued care. It is critical that public health officials and clinicians understand why patients are lost at each stage so that changes can be made to improve care for those with chronic HCV.”