Hepatitis C deaths on the rise

AMARILLO, Texas---Deaths linked to Hepatitis C are on the rise across the U.S. and here in the Panhandle region.

Some doctors call Hepatitis C the "silent killer" currently plaguing the nation.

The disease currently claims more lives than HIV.

"Around 2.9 million Americans at this time have Hepatitis C and every year around 35,000 people get infected with the virus," Dr. Kuldip Banwait said.

It's estimated nearly half of Americans with Hepatitis C don't even know they have the disease because they may experience no symptoms for years.

What concerns doctors even more is that Hepatitis C is the No. 1 cause of liver transplantation in the U.S.

Before the disease was spread through blood transfusions given to patients prior to 1992.

Now tattoos, sexual activity and drug abuse are the top 3 ways the disease is spread.

New drugs on the market are aimed at combating the problem.

"One is callde Telaprevir and the other is called Boceprevir," he said. "These drugs are only used for Type 1 Hepatitis C cases and they can cure 80 percent of those patients and that's a real breakthrough."

Locally, we're told cases are up among the Baby Boomer generation.

Doctor Banwait just wants to remind anyone that Hepatitis can be detected early through a simple blood test.

We tried to find out just how many people here in Amarillo carry Hepatitis C but nobody from the Amarillo Public Health Department returned our calls.