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Hepatitis C 'epidemic' may spur STD testing

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

The threat of contracting a new form of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) may prompt HIV-infected men in New York City to seek out STD testing.

In recent months, more than 50 cases of the new HCV strain have emerged in New York, all in men with HIV. The virus is most commonly transferred through anal sex with other men and can cause rapid damage to the liver, MedPage Today reports.

Dr Daniel Fierer, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine called the virus "an epidemic", and began studies on its spread and effects.

In a study of 21 men infected with HCV, Fierer found that injection drug use, which is typically the primary mode of transmission, did not seem to be a factor. He further more found from an examination of 30 liver biopsies, that 77 percent of those infected had developed stage 2 or stage 3 fibrosis.

Though such a rapid onset of fibrosis has never before been linked with HCV infection, Fierer suggested, "The good news is that the [rate of cure] is 75 percent, and perhaps better if treated sooner.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though blood tests are available to diagnose the condition, there are currently no vaccinations against HCV.

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