- Note - It is encouraging to see the government
taking prudent action to notify possible victims of the often fatal Hep-C
infection. Why, in more than 20 years of the AIDS epidemic, has the government
not taken similar steps to trace and notify those who may have received
HIV contaminated blood even though tens of thousands, especially hemophiliacs,
have perished from such blood?
- WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - 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
- 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
- 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