Many American kids with hepatitis C untreated

09:18, May 04, 2010      

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Many American kids with hepatitis C may suffer from liver damage or liver cancer because their illness goes undiagnosed and untreated, U.S. researchers warned on Sunday.

"Our study showed a lack of adequate identification of hepatitis C virus infection in children that could be widespread throughout the nation," said Dr. Aymin Delgado-Borrego, a pediatric gastroenterologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Delgado-Borrego and her colleagues based their study on national data which shows that between 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent of children in the United States are infected with hepatitis C.

Based on these data, Delgado-Borrego's group found only about 1.2 percent of children with hepatitis C were receiving treatment by a pediatric hepatologist.

The researchers presented their findings at the Digestive Disease Week conference in New Orleans on Sunday.

Most children and adults infected with hepatitis C do not have symptoms or only have nonspecific symptoms, such as fatigue or abdominal pain, Delgado-Borrego said.

Hepatitis C is like a "ticking bomb," she said. "It seems harmless until it explodes."

Most young children get the infection from their mothers while in the womb. That accounts for about 60 percent of the infections in young children, Delgado-Borrego said.

Teenagers can get it through intravenous drug use and other substance abuse, she added.

"Not only was there a lack of proper identification, but among the children that have been identified the percentage of those receiving medical care is extremely and unacceptably low," she said.

Delgado-Borrego attributed the lower rate of diagnosis and treatment to the following factors: a widespread lack of awareness of the condition, inadequate screening and the negligence to refer infected children to specialists.

Source: Xinhua

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