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Children Exposed To Hepatitis C May Be Missing Out On Treatment

Several times a month, Jessica Wen, a pediatrician specializing in liver diseases, has a teenager show up at her clinic at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia with an unexpected diagnosis: hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C virus, or HCV, is the most common bloodborne infection in the U.S. and a leading cause of liver failure and cancer. Injection drug use is a common risk factor, as is receiving a blood transfusion before 1992. But some of the teens Wen sees picked up the illness another way: at birth, from their mothers.

"I have diagnosed moms after diagnosing the kids," Wen says, referring to mothers who have hepatitis C, didn't know it and then passed it to their babies during childbirth. Wen estimates that about 1 or 2 of every 1,000 young children have chronic hepatitis C.


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