Hepatitis C: a review for primary care physicians

Wong, Tom; Lee, Samuel S.
February 2006
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;2/28/2006, Vol. 174 Issue 5, p649
Academic Journal
Abstract Primary care physicians see many of the estimated 250 000 Canadians chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Of this number, about one-third are unaware they are infected, which constitutes a large hidden epidemic. They continue to spread HCV unknowingly and cannot benefit from advances in antiviral therapy that may clear them of the virus. Many HCV-infected people remain asymptomatic, which means it is important to assess for risk factors and test patients accordingly. The third-generation enzyme immunoassay for HCV antibodies is a sensitive and specific test, although the presence of the virus can be confirmed by polymerase chain reaction testing for HCV RNA in some circumstances. Pegylated interferon-α and ribavirin combination therapy clears the virus in about 45%-80% of patients, depending on viral genotype. Preventive strategies and counselling recommendations are also reviewed.


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