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Report: Tackle overlooked threat of hepatitis B, C

They're the overlooked viruses: Hepatitis B and C together infect three to five times more Americans than the AIDS virus does, and most don't know it.

In the next 10 years, these two liver-damaging infections will kill about 150,000 people in the U.S. alone, says a new report Monday from the prestigious Institute of Medicine.

It calls for a major public health push to decrease the stigma of these simmering viruses, which are to blame for nearly half the liver transplants performed every year.

"We have allowed gaps in screening, prevention and treatment to go unchecked," said report chairman R. Palmer Beasley of the University of Texas, Houston.

Some people can fight off hepatitis B or C, but it becomes a chronic, incurable infection in anywhere from 3.5 million to 5.3 million Americans, the report estimates. While anyone can be infected, the viruses disproportionately affect blacks, Asians and Pacific Islanders.
 
 

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