Some of the first-time donors who rushed to give blood in
the aftermath of the terrorist attacks are now discovering
they may need medical assistance of their own in the future.
More than twice as many people as expected tested positive
for hepatitis C, a potentially debilitating liver disease,
after doting blood, according to the records from the Puget
Sound Blood Center.
It's hard when someone finds out they have a disease such
as hepatitis C, said Keith Warnack, spokesman for the blood
center. On the other hand, they found out something important
that will help keep them healthy.
About 20, or 0.7 percent, of the 2712 first-time donors who
turned out between September 11th and September 16th tested
positive for the disease even after disclosing no known risk
factors. Their blood won't be used.
During typical blood drives, only about 0.3 percent of
donors test positive for hepatitis C, Warnack said.
The data collected by blood banks around the country after
the outpouring of donations to give public health officials a
rare glimpse into the prevalence of the disease, which is to
believe to infect about two percent of the general population.
Some health advocates, however, believe the rate could be
Between 10 and 20 percent of people who test positive don't
know how they contracted it, said Michael Ninburg, executive
director of the hepatitis education project, a Seattle-based
group to provide support and information.
Some risk factors include injection drug users, having had
a blood transfusion prior to 1992 or having received clotting
agents before 1987.
Having multiple sex partners also increases the risk.
The health department has not seen the data yet, said Dr.
Jeff Duchin, chief of the communicable disease control program
for public health Seattle and King County. But the numbers did
not surprise him.
The number of people reported to the public health
department has been growing as awareness has grown and more
people have been tested, he said.
Some cases spontaneously resolve, he said.
But between 75 percent and 85 percent will develop into a
chronic infection, and between 10 to 20 percent of those will
eventually lead to cirrhosis of the liver.
Currently, hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver
transplants in the country.
Avoiding alcohol primary method of reducing damage from
hepatitis C, said the Duchin.