Hep C May Kill More than AIDS

ATLANTA, Ga-Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that the hepatitis C virus (HCV) will be more lethal than AIDS by 2010.

The prediction comes only 12 years after the discovery of the blood-borne viral disease. Today, there are 10,000 people dying annually from HCV, with more than 200,000 people being treated for the virus. The CDC estimates that number will double within four years.

HCV, which is usually contracted through intravenous drug use or blood transfusions is only rarely passed through sexual intercourse. The problem in estimating how many Americans are currently afflicted with the virus stems in the disease's power to remain dormant for 20 years before causing liver failure.

Called the "silent killer," HCV can be treated by one drug on the market. Schering-Plough's Rebetron costs more than $18,000 annually. The drug is a combination of ribavirin and the anticancer drug interferon. They work together to trick the virus into creating defective viral cells.

This treatment is effective in 40% of cases, but also carries several side effects including depression and anemia.

Symptoms of HCV include jaundice, fatigue, and abdominal pain. The virus also scars the liver and can cause cancer.

Information from www.newsmax.com