Hepatitis C is officially more deadly to U.S. adults than HIV is, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health experts are quite pleased with the country's falling HIV rates, but warn that these new figures prove the need for expanded screening methods for hepatitis C, a liver disease commonly spread through shared needles. Here, a look at the rise of America's new "silent" killer, by the numbers:
Americans infected with hepatitis C
Percent of those Americans who don't know they have the disease
Ratio of infected Americans who are baby boomers. The spread "has a lot do do with casual needle injection-drug use back in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s," says Amy Norton at Reuters.
Ratio of Americans born between 1945 and 1964 who have hepatitis C
New hepatitis C infections per year
75 to 85
Percentage of hepatitis C infections that become chronic, potentially causing "serious diseases like cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer," says Norton.
Americans killed by hepatitis C in 2007, the most recent year for which data is available
Americans killed by HIV in 2007
Estimated deaths that could be prevented if all Americans born between 1945 and 1965 agreed to a one-time hepatitis C screening, according to the CDC. "Most people don't know they're infected with hepatitis C until decades later," says Rita Rubin at Web MD, "when routine blood tests uncover liver damage caused by the virus over time."
Cost of screening an adult for hepatitis C
Percent of hepatitis C patients who are cured if treated with two generic medicines, interferon and ribavirin
Percent of hepatitis C patients who are cured if two recently approved drugs, Incivek and Victrelis, are added to the regimen
Cost of the Incivek treatment
$26,000 to $48,000
Cost of the Victrelis treatment
Low-end cost of a liver transplant
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