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01/15/2014 10:44 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Hepatitis C Varies Widely Among U.S. Hispanics

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The first study of hepatitis C infection among different Hispanic groups in the U.S. has found that infection with the virus varies widely, with Puerto Rican Hispanics much more likely than other groups to be infected. The study, led by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, highlights which Hispanic populations would benefit most from increased hepatitis C testing and treatment. It was published today in the online edition of the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Hepatitis C is a viral disease that primarily affects the liver and is caused by the hepatitis C virus. The virus is usually spread through contact with the blood of an infected person, often from sharing needles to inject drugs. Many people were also infected through blood transfusions before testing of donated blood began in 1992. About 150 million people worldwide are now infected with hepatitis C, including three to four million in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The majority of infected people don't know they're infected, since it may take decades for the virus to cause liver damage severe enough to cause symptoms.

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