Untreated, the infection can lead to liver damage, liver cancer, researcher says
SUNDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- Many children with hepatitis C go undiagnosed and untreated, which can lead to severe liver damage later in life, a new study warns.
Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine noted that national data shows that between 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent of children in the United States are infected with hepatitis C. Based on that data, they thought they would find about 12,155 cases of pediatric infection in Florida, yet only 1,755 cases were identified, a mere 14.4 percent of the expected number of cases.
"Our study showed a lack of adequate identification of hepatitis C virus infection in children that could be widespread throughout the nation," said lead researcher Dr. Aymin Delgado-Borrego, a pediatric gastroenterologist and assistant professor of pediatrics.
Hepatitis C is like a "ticking bomb," she said. "It seems harmless until it explodes."
Most children and adults infected with hepatitis C do not have symptoms or only nonspecific symptoms, such as fatigue or abdominal pain, Delgado-Borrego said.
She planned to present the findings Sunday at the Digestive Disease Week conference in New Orleans.
Delgado-Borrego chose Florida for the study because it is one of the few states that requires all cases of the infection to be reported to the local health department.
"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.
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.
Most young children get the infection from their mothers while in the womb. That accounts for about 60 percent of
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