Hepatitis C News Release

October 1, 2001 -- Because of its important clinical implications, the New England Journal of Medicine has released an article about hepatitis C today, a month and a half before the article was due to appear in print in the November 15 issue of the Journal. The essence of the article is that: "Treatment of acute hepatitis C with interferon alfa-2b prevents chronic infection."

Hepatitis C is due to a virus that infects, inflames, and destroys the liver. It is a huge health problem. More than 4 million people in the US and 170 million in the world are currently infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV).

In people infected with HCV, chronic infection often develops and is difficult to eradicate. Chronic hepatitis due to HCV is the most common reason for liver transplantation in the US and Western Europe.

Between 1998 and 2001, the authors of the report in the Journal identified 44 patients throughout Germany who had acute hepatitis C. The average age of the patients was 36 years. Twenty-five were women. Nine became infected with HCV through intravenous drug use, 14 through a needle-stick injury, 7 through medical procedures, and 10 through sexual contact; the mode of infection could not be determined in 4.