HealthDay News — The number of hepatitis C-linked deaths in the United States reached a record high in 2014, and the disease is now the leading cause of infectious disease mortality in the United States, according to a report published in the May 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
There were 19,659 hepatitis C-related deaths in 2014, according to preliminary data from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of hepatitis C-related deaths in 2013 exceeded the combined number of deaths from 60 other infectious diseases, including HIV and tuberculosis.
Most cases of hepatitis C are among baby boomers — those born between 1945 and 1965. The preliminary data also suggests a new wave of hepatitis C infections among injection drug users. These “acute” cases of hepatitis C infection more than doubled since 2010, increasing to 2,194 reported cases in 2014, according to the CDC. The new cases were mainly among young whites with a history of injection drug use who are living in rural and suburban areas of the Midwest and Eastern United States.
“Because hepatitis C often has few noticeable symptoms, the number of new cases is likely much higher than what is reported. Due to limited screening and underreporting, we estimate the number of new infections is closer to 30,000 per year,” John Ward, MD, director of CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis, said in a statement. “We must act now to diagnose and treat hidden infections before they become deadly and to prevent new infections.”