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CDC: Only Half of Americans With Hepatitis C Are Properly Tested

Agency reinforces need for appropriate follow-up tests for current infection (May 7)

Only half of Americans identified as having had hepatitis C received follow-up testing to see whether they were still infected, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis of data published in the CDC report Vital Signs.

“Many people who test positive on an initial hepatitis C test are not receiving the necessary follow-up test to know if their body has cleared the virus or if they are still infected,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “Complete testing is critical to ensure that those who are infected receive the care and treatment for hepatitis C that they need in order to prevent liver cancer and other serious and potentially deadly health consequences.”

Testing for hepatitis C includes an antibody test to determine whether an individual has ever been infected with the virus. For people with a positive antibody test result, a follow-up RNA test should be given to determine whether they are still infected so that they can receive needed care.

A small number of people with antibody-positive tests will have cleared the infection on their own, but most people with hepatitis C (about 80%) remain infected and can go on to develop significant health problems, according to the CDC.

The agency recommends that everyone in the U.S. born from 1945 through 1965 be tested for hepatitis C. The CDC also recommends that other populations at increased risk for hepatitis C get tested, including those who received blood transfusions or organ transplants before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992, or those who have injected drugs.

Sources: CDC; May 7, 2013; and Vital Signs; May 2013.

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