HEPATITIS C FACTS
- 3.9 million Americans are estimated to be living with hepatitis C – the leading cause of catastrophic liver damage (cirrhosis), liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplants.
- Up to 75 percent of individuals living with hepatitis C do not realize they are infected because the disease often takes years, or even decades, to cause symptoms.
- While the virus remains undetected, causing potentially life-threatening liver damage, individuals can unknowingly transmit the disease to others.
- Hepatitis C is most prevalent among baby boomers, who are five times more likely to be infected. In fact, more than 75 percent of Americans living with hepatitis C were born between 1945 and 1965.
- Hepatitis C disproportionately affects minority Americans. Prevalence of the virus is 3 percent among African Americans and 2.6 percent among Latinos, compared to 1.5 percent of the general population. Prevalence is highest among American Indians.
- Unless current trends are reversed, the CDC predicts that deaths due to the virus will double or even triple in the next 20 years.
Source: The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
MORE DEADLY FOR AMERICAN INDIANS THAN ANY OTHER ETHNIC GROUP
Among all racial and ethnic groups, American Indians have the highest rate of hepatitis C infection, as well as the highest hepatitis C-related mortality rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of Americans with hepatitis C increased within several ethnic groups from 2011-2012, and American Indians experienced the highest increase (86.2 percent), compared to 36 percent among Caucasians and nearly 24 percent among Latinos. Even though American Indians experienced a decrease of 14.3 percent from 2012-2013, they still have the high-est rate of hepatitis C among all ethnic groups.
American Indians have the highest cases of hepatitis C per 100,000 of the general population with 1.7 per 100,000 while Caucasian American have 0.82 per 100,000, and are twice as likely to have hepatitis C as Caucasian Americans.
HEPATITIS C IS BOTH MORE COMMON & MORE DEADLY AMONG AMERICAN INDIANS THAN ANY OTHER AMERICAN ETHNIC OR RACIAL GROUP.
A DEADLY THREAT TO AMERICAN INDIANS
Not only do American Indians have the highest rate of hepatitis C, they are also the most likely ethnic group to die as a result of it. According to CDC data for the year 2013, the hepatitis C mortality rate per 100,000 people was 4.4 for Caucasians and 12.22 for American Indians.
Fortunately, new hepatitis C treatments are now available that can cure the virus in most people. Unlike older, interferon-based regimens, which has debilitating side effects and are only effective half of the time, innovative therapies offer cure rates exceeding 95 percent while causing minimal side effects.
COMBATING HEPATITIS C REQUIRES IMPROVED ACCESS TO TESTING& EFFECTIVE TREATMENT
Hepatitis C testing for at-risk patients is crucial to improve awareness, connect patients with treatment, and prevent new infections. Considering up to 75 percent of individuals living with hepatitis C are unaware they even have the illness, testing and early detection is invaluable, especially for American Indians who have a stronger likelihood of infection.
With the availability of new treatments that can cure the virus in most cases, it is even more critical to ensure American Indians increased awareness, screening and linkage to effective care so that we can turn the tide on this silent epidemic.