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Prisoners can benefit from medicine for hepatitis C

Category: Infectious Diseases

When blood tests detect hepatitis C in incarcerated individuals, that doesn't make the infectious disease any more difficult to treat than it is for free individuals, according to findings from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH). This information appears in the upcoming issue of Hepatology.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hepatitis C - or chronic swelling of the liver - can be either asymptomatic, make people feel somewhat sick or cause individuals to become severely ill. It spreads through blood, meaning it can transfer from person to person through unsterilized needles for intravenous drug use and tattoos.

"Given that a history of intravenous drug use is more frequent among inmates, there is a higher prevalence of hepatitis C infection in the prison population," said lead author Michael Lucey, chief of the SMPH's Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. "[Hepatitis C] treatment during incarceration provides an opportunity to make a significant improvement to public health."

The SMPH compared two large groups of people who received affirmative blood tests for hepatitis C - one of incarcerated individuals, one of non-incarcerated people - to determine if drug therapy would produce different outcomes. After administering two types of drugs, SMPH reports that 43 percent of the prisoners responded to the treatment, while 38 percent of the free group experienced the same result.

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