Hepatitis C, new car smell and gluten allergy

February 21, 2012 5:05:17 AM PST
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease that mostly affects the liver. It's caused by a virus transmitted through blood.

In some people, the virus leaves after some time. But in others, it stays chronic, silent and without symptoms, yet still causing damage.

All blood products used in surgeries began getting testing for the Hepatitis C virus, called HCV, in the early 90s. Contaminated needles are also a mode of transmission.

Now, health experts estimate that more than 3 million people are infected, most of them middle-aged adults ranging in ages 46 through 66 or 67, a group now reaching the age when they're at risk of HCV-related diseases.

Statistics through 2007 showed more people died from Hepatitis B and C related illnesses than from HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The authors of the study are recommending initiatives to identify and treat the public at risk.

New Car Smell

So is there a risk from that wonderful new car smell? The authors of a new study by The Ecology Center, a nonprofit group based in Michigan, says they identified more than 200 chemicals in the car's interiors responsible for the smell.

Some of the chemicals have, in other studies, been associated with illness. In this case, one expert says it's a red flag for the public and the industry to pay attention to.

"Maybe they'll start thinking about what are they putting in these cars and are there substances that are coming out of these fumes that are potentially harmful," said Dr. Raed Dweik, of the Cleveland Clinic. "But I wouldn't say there is any proof that any of these substances are harming anybody out there."

Gluten Allergies

People allergic to gluten, a product in wheat, rye and other grains, try to avoid products that contain gluten. Some have celiac disease and suffer stomach damage from eating gluten. They've been diagnosed through blood and bowel tests.

But a new study says other people who may have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity have never been well-tested and may suffer effects of gluten because they expect to.

The authors say that until there's a definitive test for non-celiac gluten sensitivity, physicians may want to perform a blind or open challenge test on a patient.

A food challenge is consuming increasing amounts of the suspected food at fixed intervals under observation. It is done by feeding gradually increasing doses of the suspected food at 10-30 minutes until a reaction occurs or a normal amount of the food is eaten without causing symptoms.

Experts think many patients may be weaning themselves from gluten unnecessarily.