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One-quarter of L.A.'s homeless are infected with hepatitis C

Category: Infectious Diseases

More than one-quarter of homeless individuals in Los Angeles are infected with hepatitis C, and many do not know about their infection, according to a new report. The researchers behind the study are recommending liver panel testing and treatment for infected individuals to avoid major public health costs.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles examined infection rates in the city's homeless population. The findings indicated that 27 percent had hepatitis C. About one-half of these individuals did not know they were infected. Among those who did know they had the disease, less than 3 percent had ever received treatment.

This isn't just a problem that affects the homeless, said lead researcher Lillian Gelberg. She said that many individuals have been infected for about 20 years, which is roughly the length of time it takes for the hepatitis C to cause irreparable damage to the liver. If nothing is done about the problem, many individuals may start showing up to emergency rooms with symptoms of cirrhosis.

"Their hepatitis C can result in high costs to the public and the healthcare system if progression of their disease is not halted through treatment," Gelberg said. ADNFCR-2248-ID-800794933-ADNFCR

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