More than a quarter of LA’s homeless adults have hepatitis C

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A new study finds that more than a quarter of all homeless adults on Los Angeles's Skid Row are infected with hepatitis C, a contagious liver disease that now kills more Americans than AIDS.

A UCLA survey of homeless who live on Skid Row found nearly 27 percent of them infected with hepatitis C, the most serious form of the virus. That’s more than 10 times the rate of infection among the general population nationwide.

The virus is spread mostly by contact with blood and the sharing of needles.

Researchers also found that almost half of those surveyed who carry the hep C virus were unaware of their infection. Of those who were aware, fewer than 3 percent received any treatment for the disease, which is the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

Nationwide, more than 3 million Americans are chronically infected with hepatitis C (about 75 percent of them baby boomers) according to the Centers for Disease Control, which is urging all boomers to get a one-time test.

The CDC says most who are infected have no idea, partly because the disease gradually destroys the liver with few noticeable symptoms.

New treatments for hepatitis C can cure about 75 percent of all infections and could save up to 120,000 lives of people who currently have the disease.

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