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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Health Officials Report Rise in Hepatitis C
Travis Morse
October 22, 2003
Journal-Standard (Freeport, Ill.) (10.22.03) - Wednesday,

Illinois' Stephenson County Health Department is watching hepatitis C rates after noting a rise in cases in 2002.

A county health department annual report showed 17 hepatitis C cases in 2002, a 40 percent increase over the 12 cases reported in 2001. But the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 22 cases of hepatitis C in Stephenson County for 2002. County Health Administrator Jeff Todd said the discrepancy reflects the inclusion of later test results and that the IPDH figure is probably accurate, which means an 80 percent increase in the number of hepatitis C cases.

The case count represents disease carriers - individuals who are infected but not symptomatic. From April 2001 - when the federal government made hepatitis C a reportable disease - to the present, the state reported 818 infected persons.

Pam Kirkpatrick, communicable disease coordinator for the Health Department, said doctors are doing a better job of screening for hepatitis C and advising patients about risk factors, including having received a blood transfusion or solid organ transplant before July 1992, having received clotting factors made before 1987, and having ever been on long-term kidney dialysis. CDC estimates that injection drug use accounts for 60 percent of all new cases of the ailment, although body piercing or tattooing with unsterilized needles, sharing personal care items, sharing drug paraphernalia and sexual activity resulting in blood-to-blood contact can also lead to infection. Antiviral therapy is effective about half the time.

Former "Baywatch" star Pamela Anderson has hepatitis C. According to news reports today, she told US magazine in an upcoming issue, "I think I've got a good 10 years left in me, which is sad, too. Maybe 15, if I'm lucky." Anderson, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2001, is currently using homeopathic treatments, according to reports.

Todd said there are currently about 2 million to 4 million undiagnosed cases of hepatitis C nationwide.