Reuters reported that a CDC analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data from 2003–2010 indicated that 1 percent of Americans (2.7 million) older than 6 had chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections that could damage their livers severely with time. CDC Spokesperson Dr. Scott Holmberg stated that approximately 30,000 people had participated in NHANES and contributed blood samples for HCV testing.
The survey found even more people with HCV antibodies in their blood, which signaled previous HCV exposure. Only half of HCV-infected survey participants ages 20–59 reported illegal drug use or blood transfusions. Holmberg noted that some high-risk populations—homeless and incarcerated people—did not participate in NHANES.
People born between 1945 and 1965 accounted for approximately 81 percent of chronic HCV-infected individuals. Baby boomers most likely to have chronic HCV included those who had received a blood transfusion before mandatory viral testing began in 1992, people who had injected illegal drugs, or those who have had 10 or more sexual partners throughout their lifetimes. HCV-infected people also were more likely to be in their 40s or 50s, male, black, and born in the United States. HCV symptoms often did not appear until 20–30 years after the initial infection, and most HCV-infected people were unaware they had the virus.
CDC and the US Preventive Services Task Force recommended that all US adults born between 1945 and 1965 have a hepatitis C test. Screening only high-risk individuals was not likely to identify most people with the virus, according to Mark H. Kuniholm, from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y.
The full report, “Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection in the United States, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003 to 2010,” was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine (2014; doi:10.7326/M13-1133).
Reuters reported that although Western European nations had made progress in reducing overall TB rates, TB diagnoses in cities with more than 500,000 residents were twice as high as national incidence. City dwellers with highest TB risk included marginalized groups such as immigrants from high-burden areas in Africa and Asia, drug addicts, the poor, and the homeless. In 2012, Public Health England reported that 40 percent (3,426) of Britain’s 8,750 TB cases occurred in London.
Ibrahim Abubakar, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College, London, compared TB incidence in big cities with Western European nations reporting low overall TB rates. He found the highest urban TB incidence in Birmingham and London in England, Brussels in Belgium, and Barcelona in Spain. TB has become an increasingly pressing problem as drug-resistant strains have emerged. Of infectious diseases, only AIDS kills more people worldwide than TB. In 2011, global TB incidence was 8.7 million, and TB mortality was 1.4 million. The World Health Organization declared TB a global emergency in 1993 and estimated that approximately 2 million people would have a drug-resistant TB strain by 2015.
Abubakar advised European big cities to focus TB control measures on highly vulnerable urban populations. He urged health officials to identify successful local and regional efforts and build intervention models from these experiences. 2013 estimates indicated that the direct health cost of TB for European governments was 500 million euros, with another 5.3 billion euros in lost productivity.
The full report, “Epidemiology of Tuberculosis in Big Cities of the European Union and European Economic Area Countries,” was published in the journal Eurosurveillance (2014;19(9):pii=20726).
Healio reported on research to determine whether a sexual risk reduction intervention program targeted to South African men may help promote safer sexual practices, since in South Africa HIV is transmitted mostly through heterosexual sex.
The researchers conducted a cluster-randomized controlled trial with 1,106 men ages 18–45 from 206 matched neighborhoods with similar demographic features in the target area of Eastern Cape Province. The researchers randomly selected 22 pairs of neighborhoods, which they randomly assigned to an HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) risk modification program or an attention-control program focusing on health factors not involved with sexual risk.
The study’s goal was regular condom use in the past three months. At 12-month follow-up, the men in the HIV and STI risk-reduction had higher self-reported consistent condom use and condom use during last vaginal intercourse. There was no difference in behaviors such as unprotected sex or multiple partners and ongoing or casual partnerships between the participants in the two interventions.
Findings did not change significantly between 6-month and 12-month follow-up, which suggested that the participants retained the behaviors. The researchers noted that the intervention increased men’s reports of discussing condom use with their partners.
The full report, “Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial of an HIV/Sexually Transmitted Infection Risk-Reduction Intervention for South African Men,” was published in the American Journal of Public Health (2014; 104 (3): 467–473).
Syracuse.com reported that phone dating apps are to blame for higher syphilis cases among gay men in Onondaga County, N.Y. Diagnosis of the STD nearly doubled from 15 cases in 2012 to 29 in 2013. In that same time frame, the state recorded a 30-percent case increase.
Men accounted for almost all syphilis cases reported in New York last year, with more than 70 percent being among gay men. Nearly all cases in the county last year were men older than 30. Syphilis is a serious bacterial infection that, if left untreated, could be fatal. Many people do not realize they have the STD because they do not recognize the early symptoms. Antibiotics can treat the disease easily once it is diagnosed. State and county health departments have put health providers in the state on alert to be diligent in testing and treating the disease.
When health providers report a syphilis case, public health workers attempt to notify partners so they also can be treated. This practice was made difficult when the infected men informed the health workers that they used gay dating apps to find quick, anonymous sexual encounters. "It is alarming to see the number of people who use these apps," said Dr. Cynthia Morrow, health commissioner for Onondaga County. "They are significantly contributing to the spread of sexually transmitted disease."
The Onondaga County Health Department provides free, confidential testing at its STD Center in the Onondaga County Civic Center, 421 Montgomery Street, Syracuse. For more information, call (315) 435–3236.
The Half Moon Bay Review reported that a new AIDS awareness campaign was recently launched in San Mateo County, Calif., to promote HIV testing and education, as well as to reduce the stigma about the disease. The San Mateo County Greater Than AIDS campaign, sponsored by the San Mateo County Health System, features billboards and radio ads. The initiative will run through June 27, National HIV Testing Day, when Walgreens stores will offer free HIV testing. More than 1,400 people have HIV in San Mateo County, 67 percent of whom developed AIDS. The campaign also promotes the county’s STD/HIV testing and information line, (650) 619–9125, to link callers with free or low-cost HIV testing, as well as other services.
Prensa Latina reported that on March 10, the Brazilian government began a national campaign to vaccinate adolescents ages 11 to 13 against human papillomavirus, which can cause certain types of cancer. Since Health Ministry workers will administer the vaccine at public and private schools, the ministry called parents and educators for consent. According to Health Minister Arthur Chioro, workers will administer the vaccine in three stages; the second stage will occur six months after the first, and the third within the next five years. The campaign will continue until 2016 when authorities expect to immunize 80 percent of the 5.2 million Brazilian girls in the 11–13 year age group.
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