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Expert: Hepatitis C 'Not a Death Sentence'

Victims of an Exeter outbreak received encouragement.

Hepatitis C is not a "death sentence," an expert said tonight to victims of an outbreak at Exeter Hospital.

Raymond Chung is a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital and a hepatitis C expert. He spoke to about 100 people at a public forum tonight for victims of the outbreak, which has infected 20 people so far. That number is as test results come back on hundreds of patients possibily exposed to the outbreak, which state health officials said was likely caused by a . A criminal probe has been into the matter.

Chung was on a panel of experts at tonight during a public forum for victims of the outbreak. The forum was organized in part by State Rep. Lee Quandt, R-Exeter, who said he got calls from victims who were scared for their lives.

Chung said tonight that 25 percent of those who contract hepatitis C clear the disease on their own.

He said the other 75 percent can be treated with a combination of medication.

Hepatitis C is a liver disease that can live in the body for decades and sometimes causes cirrohis – a scarring of the liver that can be deadly.

Chung talked about interferon and ribavirin, injections that can cure hepatitis C in about 75 percent of patients.

Chung added new treatments could be approved in the next few years that could have even higher cure rates. Chung said some of the Exeter victims could qualify for experiemental treatments.

"The future for the management of this disease is very bright," he said.

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