Hey Grandma, Let's Get You Checked for Hep C

Charles P. Vega, MD


August 30, 2013

In This Article

Background to the Study

HCV infection is one of the most common chronic infections in the United States. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999 to 2002 indicated that the overall prevalence of HCV infection was 1.6% among adults aged 20-59 years.[1] This figure includes over 3 million adults with active infection, as defined by a positive HCV RNA test. Moreover, this testing probably underestimated the total prevalence of HCV infection because high-risk populations, including homeless and incarcerated adults, were not included in the research. In a study of over 400 homeless war veterans, the prevalence of HCV infection was 44.0%.[2]

Evidence of HCV infection is twice as common among women than men and among African Americans than white adults.[3] The most important risk factor for HCV infection is intravenous drug use. Nearly one half of the cohort that was positive for HCV infection in the NHANES study had this risk factor.[1] Other significant risk factors for HCV infection include receipt of blood transfusion before 1992, receipt of other blood products before 1987, and other drug use.[3] Sexual behavior is a less powerful risk factor HCV infection compared with HIV infection, but there is evidence that a history of multiple sexual partners is associated with a higher risk for HCV infection. Many individuals with HCV infection have overlapping risk factors for infection.


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