Epidemiology of hepatitis C.
In the United States, the annual number of newly acquired acute hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections has declined from an estimated 180,000 in the mid 1980s to an estimated 28,000 in 1995. Approximately 25% to 30% of these infections are clinically apparent cases that are sufficiently symptomatic to gain medical attention. Deaths from fulminant hepatitis C are rare. The prevalence of antibody to HCV (anti-HCV) in the general population of the United States is 1.8%, corresponding to an estimated 3.9 million Americans infected with HCV, and an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 deaths each year result from HCV-associated chronic liver disease. HCV infection affects persons of all ages, but most acute cases of hepatitis C and the highest prevalence of anti-HCV are found among young adults. The highest proportion both of incident cases and prevalent infections is among whites, but the highest incidence and prevalence rates are among non-white racial/ethnic groups. In the past, transfusion of blood and blood products was an important source of HCV transmission, but currently, high-risk drug and sexual exposures account for most HCV transmission. Although the incidence of acute hepatitis C has declined, there is a large reservoir of chronically infected Americans who can serve as a source of transmission to others and who are at risk of the severe consequences of chronic liver disease.
Hepatitis Branch, Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA.
Pub Type(s)Consensus Development Conference