Four Million Infected with Hepatitis C in US
New findings from a nationwide study indicate that 4.1 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C (HCV), and many of these patients have chronic infection, the leading reason for liver transplantation. About 5 percent of people with chronic HCV will die.
Dr. Gregory L. Armstrong of CDC and colleagues analyzed data for 15,079 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999 to 2002. Participants answered detailed questions about their health and lifestyles, then submitted blood samples for HCV testing and liver enzyme analysis. The rate of HCV infection was 1.6 percent, down from 1.8 percent a decade ago, and 1.3 percent of all subjects had chronic infection. People in their 40s had the highest rate of HCV infection - 4.3 percent, the researchers reported.
Injection drug use was the biggest risk factor for HCV infection: Almost half of infected participants reported injecting drugs. Most injection drug users said they had not used drugs for at least one year prior to the survey. Other significant risk factors included blood transfusion before 1992 and having 20 or more lifetime sexual partners, said the report. The previous NHANES was conducted from 1988 to 1994.
In a related commentary, Dr. Jules L. Dienstag of Harvard Medical School noted "the new data build on those reported previously to paint a vivid portrait of hepatitis C in the US. A self-limited epidemic of injection drug use over several decades amplified the transmission of HCV, and we are now seeing the delayed, bitter harvest of chronic liver disease."
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