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About 38 Mln Chinese Carry Hepatitis C Virus

About 38 million Chinese are carrying the hepatitis C virus (HCV), but public understanding of the disease is low, said the China Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control (CFHPC) on Thursday.

The incidence of hepatitis C has surged in the past few years, said a CFHPC report.

The disease was identified in 1989, and research found that a majority of its infections became chronic and led to liver disorders, including cancer.

The Ministry of Health said early this month that hepatitis C was one of China's top five deadly epidemics.

But the public is not well informed about the disease, the CFHPC said, citing its latest survey that indicated only 1 percent of the respondents were aware of how HCV spreads and how to prevent it. Only 5 percent have had a test for HCV.

No HCV vaccine is available, yet 80 percent of those surveyed believed that they could be protected against hepatitis C by a vaccine, the report said.

Although the virus can be eradicated or controlled in the early stages of the disease through proper therapy, about 30 percent of those surveyed said there was no cure for hepatitis C.

Many also confused hepatitis C with hepatitis B, the CFHPC report said.

Clinical research in China and abroad showed that 70 percent of the HVC carriers could be cured if diagnosed at an early stage, the report said. "The whole society should work to improve the public awareness of HCV so that the carriers could be diagnosed and treated as early as possible."

The CFHPC suggested that the government tighten controls on blood products and expand HCV testing.

HCV usually spreads through contact with infected blood, sex with an infected person or from mother to baby during childbirth.

(Xinhua News Agency November 23, 2007)

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