Copyright © 1998 Nando.net; Copyright ©
1998 Reuters News Service
WASHINGTON (July 8, 1998 12:57 p.m. EDT http://www.nandotimes.com)
- The U.S. government has begun the first phase in notifying
hundreds of thousands of people who may have been accidentally
infected with the hepatitis C virus during blood transfusions.
Letters will be mailed to those who received transfusions from
blood donors who have since tested positive for the virus, which
affects four million Americans.
People who received blood before June 1992, when the most
reliable screening test was instituted, are at risk.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne viral infection that can lead to
sometimes fatal chronic liver damage.
"I think we are very concerned about this disease. We think it
truly represents an epidemic," Surgeon General David Satcher told
"ABC's Good Morning America" Wednesday.
Satcher defended the government mass mailing that some experts
think may create unnecessary anxiety.
"People deserve to know what we know in terms of the risks if
they've received blood from a person with hepatitis C. Also, I
think there are some things that we can do in terms of treatment,
even though we don't have a cure. The treatment is improving every
day," he said.
"We have delayed doing this until, number one, we were fairly
certain about the accuracy of the test, and we did not want to
falsely alarm individuals and families," Satcher added.
Screening tests for the virus were implemented after 1990,
greatly reducing the risk of transfusion-borne viral transmission.
Experts believe the chance of such transmission today is between
1-in-10,000 and 1-in-100,000.
Last year, a government panel composed of liver experts and
medical ethicists estimated that 290,000 people may have contracted
the potentially serious liver infection during pre-1990
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