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Many Americans Don’t Know They Have This Deadly Disease

An estimated 3.2 million people in the U.S. are infected with hepatitis C, a virus that affects the liver. It can be deadly when left untreated. In fact, a new report finds that hepatitis C is now the leading cause of death from infectious disease.

For the report, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed national death certificate information from 2003 to 2013.

They found that, overall, deaths from infectious disease decreased by about 3 percent per year. For hepatitis C, however, the number of deaths increased by more than 6 percent per year.

The results were published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Lack of Treatment Leads to Hepatitis C Deaths

Hepatitis C can be cured with antiviral medication. However, studies show that very few people with hepatitis C get adequate treatment. This may be because up to 80 percent of people with hepatitis C do not have any symptoms.

Without treatment, hepatitis C can cause chronic liver disease and liver cancer. The virus is the leading cause for liver transplants in the United States.

Should You Get Tested?

A blood test can check for hepatitis C. Talk with your doctor about getting tested if you:

  • Ever used injectable drugs, even once

  • Had a blood transfusion before July 1992

  • Were born between 1945 and 1965

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