Newly incarcerated have one percent acute hepatitis C prevalence

A study published in the March issue of Hepatology, a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, estimates that the prevalence of acute hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is nearly one percent among newly incarcerated inmates with a history of recent drug use. Findings suggest that systematic screening of intravenous (IV) drug users who are new to the prison system could identify more than 7,000 cases of HCV across the U.S. annually—even among asymptomatic inmates.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Health—the funding organization for this current study—chronic HCV affects 180 million people worldwide, with more than 4 million cases in the U.S. Studies have shown that most IV drug users acquire HCV with in the first year of risky injection habits and in the U.S. this population accounts for 46% of symptomatic . Due to past injection drug use, incarcerated have HCV infection rates ranging from 25% to 41%—roughly 20 times higher than the general population.

"While the (CDC) recommend more vigilant surveillance of at risk populations, many healthcare programs in correctional facilities do not routinely screen for HCV," comments Dr. Arthur Kim with the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University Center for AIDS Research in Boston. "Our study investigated whether the implementation of a low-cost, systematic screening process for high- could uncover more asymptomatic acute HCV cases among newly incarcerated individuals who recently used injection drugs."

Between October 2006 and March 2008 the team assessed the health of 6,342 inmates with 55% of those screened for HCV. Of the 3470 inmates who were screened 24% were African-America, 50% Caucasian, and 22% Hispanic. Results show that 21% of the 171 high-risk inmates had acute HCV. Inmates who were diagnosed with HCV had a mean age of 29 years and 63% were female. This investigation found 91% of those with acute HCV were Caucasian, while no African-Americans were diagnosed with this disease.

Further analysis found that about one out of every hundred inmates screened were diagnosed with acute HCV infection. Dr. Kim concludes, "Based on estimates that 700,000 individuals enter the prison system each year, about 7,000 new cases of acute would be identified if screening strategies were systematically adopted. Further validation of our screening approach in healthcare settings such as detoxification programs or emergency rooms is warranted. Adoption of such screening programs in high-risk populations would provide an opportunity for greater diagnosis and prevention of HCV."

More information: "A Simple Strategy to Identify Acute HCV Infection Among Newly Incarcerated Injection Drug Users." Arthur Y. Kim, Ellen H. Nagami, Christopher E. Birch, Melinda J. Bowen, Georg M. Lauer and Barbara H. McGovern. Hepatology; (DOI: 10.1002/hep.26113); Print Issue Date: March, 2013.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Treating hepatitis C infection in prison is good public policy

Sep 27, 2012

Incarcerated patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection are just as likely to respond to treatment for the disease as patients in the community, according to findings published in the October issue of Hepatology, a peer ...

HIV-HCV coinfection speeds HCV-related liver fibrosis

Feb 27, 2013

(HealthDay)—Individuals who are coinfected with HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) exhibit liver fibrosis similar to that of individuals without HIV who are nearly 10 years older, according to research published ...

Recommended for you

Families wait in agony for word on Ebola patients

2 hours ago

First the ring tone echoed outside the barbed-wire-topped walls of the Ebola clinic. Then came the wails of grief, as news spread that 31-year-old Rose Johnson was dead just days after she was brought here ...

China to open first high security bio laboratory

3 hours ago

China's first high-security biosafety laboratory will be ready for use by December, in a move hailed as a "crucial" moment in the fight against pathogens such as the Ebola virus, officials said Tuesday.

US Ebola labs, parts for clinic arrive in Liberia

4 hours ago

U.S. mobile Ebola labs should be up and running in Liberia this week, and American troops have broken ground for a field hospital, as the international community races to increase the ability to care for ...

Ebola-hit Liberia staring into the abyss

8 hours ago

With its collapsed health service, sick and poorly equipped security forces and broken economy, Ebola-hit Liberia finds itself on the brink of complete societal breakdown, experts warn.

User comments