Louis vets treated at VA Medical Center add to reading list (KMOV) Blood tests confirm that some veterans who received dental care at the John Cochran Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Midtown are infected with HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. While it is unclear if patients became infected due to dental equipment that was not properly sterilized, Congress is still demanding answers, and so are veterans. Terri Odom is one of the two veterans who testified about the disturbing letter she received telling her she might have been exposed to deadly viruses. She told Congress that the letter was insensitive and no more serious than a letter letting her know the parking lot is being repaved. Earline Johnson, a former VA employee who broke her silence two weeks ago told lawmakers she tried to alert higher-ups about sterilization problems. She says that got her fired. When the VA undersecretary said he would get Congress a full report documenting problems by mid-August, Congress was not impressed. Eventually the undersecretary put away his scripted remarks and said he was embarrassed by the way this situation has been handled, and acknowledged mistakes need to be corrected.
Hepatitis C Kills More Americans Than HIV/AIDS
As a result, more Americans are now dying from hepatitis C than from HIV/AIDS. Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used death certificates to track fatal cases of three viral infections - hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS - over almost a decade, starting in 1999. Over nine years, HIV deaths steadily decreased as prevention programs took effect and better treatment became available. At the same time, hepatitis C cases climbed, and by 2007, more Americans were dying from that virus than from the one that causes AIDS. Hepatitis B deaths were relatively steady during the study period, and they accounted for a fraction of the deaths caused by the other two viruses. Co-author John Ward, director of the CDC hepatitis division, says the uptick in hepatitis C deaths doesn't indicate more people are becoming infected. "The number of deaths from hepatitis C [is] increasing," he says, "because the persons infected with this virus are aging into a period of their lives when they're becoming sick with liver cirrhosis or liver cancer caused by this viral infection." Hepatitis C was discovered in 1989, and Ward says most of the three million Americans who are infected with it were exposed before then - for example through contaminated blood transfusions or by injecting illicit drugs. A person can carry the virus for decades without any symptoms, until major, and often fatal, liver disease develops.