What is the prevalence of hepatitis C (hep C) infection?

Updated: Oct 07, 2019
  • Author: Vinod K Dhawan, MD, FACP, FRCPC, FIDSA; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Hepatitis C is a worldwide problem. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major cause of both acute and chronic hepatitis. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates about 71 million people globally have chronic hepatitis C, with approximately 399,000 dying from this infection, primarily due to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). [1]

The prevalence of HCV infection varies throughout the world. For example, Frank et al reported in 2000 that Egypt had the highest number of reported infections, largely attributed to the use of contaminated parenteral antischistosomal therapy. [2] This led to a mean prevalence of 22% of HCV antibodies in persons living in Egypt.

In the United States, the incidence of acute HCV infection has sharply decreased during the past decade, but its prevalence remains high. According to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates, 2.7-3.9 million people (most of whom were born from 1945 through 1965) in the United States have chronic hepatitis C which develops in approximately 75% of patients after acute infection. [3] This virus is the most common blood-borne pathogen in the United States [4] and a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, primarily through the development of liver fibrosis and cirrhosis; persons with chronic infection live an average of 2 decades less than healthy persons. [4]

Infection due to HCV accounts for 20% of all cases of acute hepatitis, an estimated 30,000 new acute infections, and 8,000-10,000 deaths each year in the United States. [5] HCV has rapidly surpassed human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as a cause of death in the United States. An examination of nearly 22 million death records over 9 years revealed an HCV mortality rate of 4.58 deaths per 100,000 people per year and an HIV mortality rate of 4.16 deaths per 100,000 people. Almost 75% of HCV deaths occurred among adults between the ages of 45 and 64 years. [6]

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