How Common Is Hepatitis C in the United States?

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Hepatitis C virus (HCV) can lead to serious liver damage and is a major cause of illness and death in the U.S. Incidence of hep C — the most common bloodborne infection — has gone up significantly in recent years, largely due to the injection drug epidemic. In fact, according to a study published in JAMA Open Network, hepatitis C affected about 1 percent of American adults from 2013 to 2016.

HCV transmission occurs primarily through exposure to infected bodily fluids. If left untreated, 15 to 42 percent of infections resolve on their own, but about half of chronic infections lead to progressive liver diseases like cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis C infection contributed to about 18,000 deaths in the United States in 2016.

According to this observational study, which used survey and vital statistics information, nine U.S. states account for approximately 52 percent of infections with HCV, including:

  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio
  • Michigan
  • Tennessee
  • North Carolina

Results of the study could help HCV prevention and treatment efforts on the state level. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following groups are at risk for HCV infections:

  • Health care workers who have been exposed to infected blood from an infected needle injury
  • Anyone who has injected or inhaled illicit drugs
  • People infected with HIV
  • People who got tattoos in an environment that wasn’t clean and where unsterile equipment was used
  • Those who blood transfusions or organ transplant before 1992
  • People who received clotting factor concentrates before 1987
  • Someone undergoing hemodialysis treatments over a long period
  • Babies born to women infected with hepatitis C
  • Anyone who was ever in prison
  • Baby boomers — everyone born between 1945 and 1965, the age group with the highest hepatitis C infection incidence

Sourced from: JAMA Open Network