In a study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine (abstract here), U.S. Centers for Disease Control researchers analyzed causes of death on more than 21.8 million U.S. death certificates filed between 1999 and 2007. Rates of death related to hepatitis C, a viral infection that causes chronic liver disease, rose at an average rate of .18 deaths per 100,000 persons per year. More than 15,000 people died from hepatitis C in 2007. HIV-related death rates declined .21 deaths per 100,000 people per year — 12,734 people died from HIV in 2007. Rates of death related to a third infection, hepatitis B, remained more or less constant over the study period, falling .02 deaths per 100,000 people per year to just more than 1,800 deaths in 2007.Reuters provides some more details about this development.
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by a virus of the same name that is usually passed through contact with infected blood. An estimated 75 to 85 percent of infections become chronic, which can eventually cause serious diseases like cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer.
[...]Happily, though, with Hepatitis C, there is a cure available. Get tested, especially if you were born between 1945 and 1964.
Of the estimated 3.2 million Americans with chronic hepatitis infection, about half of them don't know it, according to the CDC.
That's because the initial infection causes no symptoms in most cases. Instead, the virus silently damages the liver over the years, and people may only discover they are infected when they develop irreversible liver cirrhosis.