Health Awarelets: HCV
HIV-positive patients appear to be at risk for late complications of concurrent infections, such as chronic liver disease caused by hepatitis C virus (HCV). A recent Boston medical center review indicates that HCV-associated liver disease is now the leading cause of death in its HIV-positive patients.
Bica I et al. Increasing mortality due to end-stage liver disease in
patients with HIV virus infection. Clinic Infect Dis 2001. Feb 1; 32:492-7
Hepatitis C: What do you know?
Hepatitis C is a blood borne, potentially fatal liver disease spread originally by transfusion, now mostly by IV drug use. It has become a silent epidemic in California, afflicting an estimated half-million residents. Nearly one-third of all convicts entering the state's prisons are infected.
70% of those infected don't realize they have the disease because symptoms aren't obvious until years later, long after liver damage begins. Unlike hepatitis A and hepatitis B, there is no vaccine available for hepatitis C. However, 2014 saw introduction of breakthrough medications which appear to result in undetectable blood levels of virus after 12 weeks. These medications are quite expensive and long-term effects remain unknown. In any case, there is room for optimism that there are finally some answers for this disease.
Untreated, long term affects can lead to liver damage, and ultimately, liver failure. The waiting list of potential liver recipients has tripled in the last five years mostly because of chronic liver failures brought on by hepatitis C. A far greater effort is needed on both state and federal levels to educate and test the public at risk, and to treat those afflicted. HCV is a potentially catastrophic disease, and it continues to simmer relatively unnoticed, but with continuing virulence and global implication.