Author(s): Gregory L Armstrong, Annemarie Wasley, Edgar P Simard, Geraldine M McQuillan, Wendi L Kuhnert
A decade ago, the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III, 1988–1994) showed hepatitis C virus (HCV) to be the most common chronic bloodborne infection in the United States (1). An estimated 3.9 million people (1.8% of the population) tested positive for antibody to HCV (anti-HCV), and 2.7 million had chronic infection. Most (65%) anti-HCV–positive persons were 30 to 49 years of age and had been infected for fewer than 20 years. The genetic diversity of HCV circulating in the United States (2) and the pattern of age-specific prevalence (3–4) both suggest that the incidence of infection increased substantially in the 1960s and 1970s and peaked in the 1980s. Identification of HCV-positive persons for appropriate counseling and management is the major focus of a national prevention program, and routine testing is recommended for persons most likely to have HCV infection (5). To determine the characteristics of HCV-infected persons in the general United States population today and to monitor trends in prevalence, we analyzed data on HCV infection from the most recent NHANES.