Americans exhibit "significant and dangerous" ignorance about hepatitis, according to a new survey released last week by the New York Blood Center.
The nationwide poll of 1,000 adults found that while nine in 10 Americans say they are "extremely" or "very" familiar with the disease, nearly half couldn't identify a single major symptom.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver usually caused by one of three highly contagious viruses, dubbed hepatitis A, B and C. The disease can lead to permanent liver damage or death.
Fewer than one in 10 of the survey respondents could differentiate among the three common forms of the disease, and 63% of those questioned wrongly believe that they don't need to be concerned about contracting it, the New York Blood Center said.
Nearly 500,000 Americans contract some form of the disease each year, and about 16,000 die from complications. Hepatitis C, also known as "HCV," accounts for 10,000 of those deaths annually, and the incidence of this form of the disease has increased in the past decade.
The New York Blood Center is the largest independent blood collection organization in the United States.