Hepatitis C – HVC – Epidemiology

Epidemiology

It is estimated that Hepatitis C has infected nearly 200 million people worldwide, and infects 3-4 million more people per year. There are about 35,000 to 185,000 new cases a year in the United States. It is currently a leading cause of cirrhosis, a common cause of hepatocellular carcinoma, and as a result of these conditions it is the leading reason for liver transplantation in the United States. Co-infection with HIV is common and rates among HIV positive populations are higher. 10,000-20,000 deaths a year in the United States are from HCV; expectations are that this mortality rate will increase, as those who were infected by transfusion before HCV testing become apparent. A survey conducted in California showed prevalence of up to 34% among prison inmates;[34] 82% of subjects diagnosed with Hepatitis C have previously been in jail,[35] and transmission while in prison is well described.

Prevalence is higher in some countries in Africa and Asia. Egypt has the highest seroprevalence for HCV, up to 20% in some areas. There is a hypothesis that the high prevalence is linked to a now-discontinued mass-Treatment campaign for schistosomiasis, which is endemic in that country. Regardless of how the epidemic started, a high rate of HCV transmission continues in Egypt, both iatrogenically and within the community and household.

Co-infection with HIV

Approximately 350,000, or 35% of patients in the USA infected with HIV are also infected with the Hepatitis C virus, mainly because both viruses are blood-borne and present in similar populations. In other countries co-infection is less common, and this is possibly related to differing drug policies. HCV is the leading cause of chronic liver disease in the USA. It has been demonstrated in clinical studies that HIV infection causes a more rapid progression of chronic Hepatitis C to cirrhosis and liver failure. This is not to say Treatment is not an option for those living with co-infection.