The Viral Time Bomb: Hepatitis C

 

Since the beginning of the year, we have heard the word virus mentioned more times than we care to remember. If you didn’t know any better, you would think the only virus is the one that currently consumes our lives. But we do know better, and there is another virus that is rapidly spreading across the globe, but it’s not a swiftly killing virus… it is hepatitis C (HCV). This virus has been described as a ‘viral time bomb’ because of its potential to erupt into a worldwide health crisis. Just what we need!

With the incidences of hepatitis C increasing dramatically since its initial discovery, the World Heath Organization (WHO) and other health agencies believe that this virus has the potential to reached pandemic proportions that are five times as widespread as HIV/AIDS.

“Hepatitis C virus …represents another viral pandemic, one that is five times as widespread as infection with the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1),” explains Georg M. Lauer, M.D. and Bruce D. Walker, M.D. in an article in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The World Health Organization estimates 170 million people, 3% of the world’s population, are infected with hepatitis C. Of those infected, 71 million become chronic (a continuing illness without improvement for at least six months) and are at risk for liver cirrhosis and/or liver cancer.

Once chronic, hepatitis C is responsible for 50 – 76% of all incidences of liver cancer throughout the world and two thirds of the world’s liver transplantation, and the leading reason for liver transplantation in the U.S.