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Reuters reports that hepatitis C—which, like HIV, is transmitted through contact with contaminated blood—killed 15,100 Americans in 2007, accounting for 0.6 percent of all deaths that year. In comparison, there were a little more than 12,700 HIV-related deaths that year.
The CDC study pointed out that those numbers are based on death certificates and likely underestimate the real number of hep-C deaths. One reason for this is that the infection is more likely than HIV to still be unrecognized at the time of a person's death.
Although hepatitis C can be spread through sexual transmission, as is the case with HIV, it is more commonly spread through blood contamination through shared needles. Initial infection with hepatitis C causes no symptoms in most cases, and the irreversible liver disease that results from the infection, called cirrhosis, takes years to show up.
John Ward, director of the division of viral hepatitis at the CDC, noted in the study that chronic hepatitis C is most common in the baby boomer generation—two thirds of U.S. infections are in people born between 1945 and 1964—largely because of the high rate of casual injection-drug use in the 1960s and 70s, Reuters reports.