A growing number of children and teenagers come to the clinics with the symptoms of undiagnosed hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is the most spread bloodborne infection in the US. The condition is also a leading cause of cancer and liver failure.
The Undiagnosed Hepatitis C
The risk factors involve blood transfusions performed before 1992 and injection drug use. However, the way the teens got the disease is completely different. It may be that they received the illness from their mothers, at birth.
The current estimations are that 2 of every 2,000 children could have the chronic disease.
The Philadelphia Department of Health has conducted a study that showed that the undiagnosed hepatitis C could lead to long-term liver damage as the sick children will not receive the necessary treatment.
In the state, 8 in 10 children are exposed to hepatitis C and were never tested for the condition. More exactly, out of the 500 mothers that were registered with the disease between 2011 and 2013 only 16% brought their children to be tested by 20 months of age.
The percentage is very low, and it is in the best interest of the kids to have the disease detected as early as possible in order to receive the treatment.
The virus can also be spread through blood-to-blood contact, which means that the children could also make other people sick by not taking care of their condition.
Hepatitis C Treatment
Until recently, the screening for the disease was not considered to be a priority because the treatment was lacking. However, in 2013 the FDA approved the first medicine that completely eliminates the virus. Even if the drugs are expensive, the disease reversed from chronic to curable.
A step further would be to make the medicine safe for children. The clinical trials are in the process of having the first results, which means that a new drug could be available in maximum two years.
A more worrying fact is that there is no method to prevent the transmission of the virus from mother to a child, even if only up to 7 babies from 100 will get the disease at birth.
The early detection is important because 15% of the children that are not treated properly will develop advanced fibrosis or liver scarring.
Another issue that is currently under debate is the universal screening for the virus, which would benefit the at-risk mothers and their children.
The Philadelphia health department already started to work with health providers and mother groups to improve the screening and help more children to receive the necessary treatment.
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