As part of a Sandia National Laboratories-led effort to create a worldwide disease-tracking network, hospital emergency rooms in three New Mexico cities and in a formerly secret Russian city have begun gathering and posting on the Internet data about an emerging disease, hepatitis C, that physicians say could have major world health implications. Although the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 3.9 million Americans are chronically infected with hepatitis C, very little is known about the virus and how it is transmitted. In all, 2,000 patients in Snezhinsk, Russia, and 2,000 in New Mexico will be tested for hepatitis C over the next several months. Statistically about 2%, or 40 to 50 people at each site, are expected to be infected. The tracking program stems from a "transparency regime" created for international treaties, such as the Biological Weapons Convention (BMC), which forbids experimentation or acquisition of biological agents or toxins for military purposes. Sandia provided additional emergency-room equipment, as well as video-conference and computer hardware needed for the hospitals involved to coordinate their work over the Internet. The lab also helped design the patient questionnaire and postulate its questions, along with hepatitis C experts at the New Mexico Department of Public Health and the UNM School of Medicine. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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