Shift due to infected baby boomers and reduction in HIV-related mortality
More people are dying due to hepatitis C than due to HIV in the United States, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This shift, they say, is likely attributable to both the aging of baby boomers infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) decades ago and the large reduction in HIV/AIDS-related mortality.
Chronic hepatitis C can lead to serious liver disease, including cirrhosis and cancer.
“By 2007, HCV had superseded HIV as a cause of death in the United States, and deaths from HCV disproportionately occurred in middle-aged persons,” the investigators said of their analysis. “To achieve decreases in mortality similar to those seen with HIV requires new policy initiatives to detect patients with chronic hepatitis and link them to care and treatment.”
The CDC analysis, which looked at death certificate data for roughly 22 million people who died between 1999 and 2007, found:
Deaths due to hepatitis C increased from 3 per 100,000 deaths in 1999, to more than 4 per 100,000 people in 2007.
Deaths due to HIV declined from 6 per 100,000 deaths in 1999 to less than 4 per 100,000 deaths in 2007.
Death rates were highest among certain populations. Alcohol abuse was associated with a four-fold increase in the risk of death. Co-infection with both hep C and HIV quadrupled the risk of death from HCV-associated liver disease.
A majority of deaths due to hepatitis C were among middle-aged people.
This news is especially troubling for black folks. In the African-American community, chronic liver disease, often hep C-related, is a leading cause of death among people aged 45 to 64. And African Americans are twice as likely to be infected with HCV as the general population in the U.S.