, Volume 86, Issue 6, pp 909-917

Prevalence of Hepatitis C Infection in New York City, 2004

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Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the leading cause of chronic liver disease in the United States. Accurate hepatitis C prevalence estimates are important to guide local public health programs but are usually unavailable to local health jurisdictions. National surveys may not reflect local variation, a particular challenge for urban settings with disproportionately large numbers of residents in high-risk population groups. In 2004, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducted the NYC Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a population-based household survey of non-institutionalized NYC residents ages 20 and older. Study participants were interviewed and blood specimens were tested for antibody to HCV (anti-HCV); positive participants were re-contacted to ascertain awareness of infection and to provide service referrals. Of 1,786 participants with valid anti-HCV results, 35 were positive for anti-HCV, for a weighted prevalence of 2.2% (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.5% to 3.3%). Anti-HCV prevalence was high among participants with a lifetime history of injection drug use (64.5%, 95% CI 39.2% to 83.7%) or a lifetime history of incarceration as an adult (8.4%, 95% CI 4.3% to 15.7%). There was a strong correlation with age; among participants born between 1945 and 1954, the anti-HCV prevalence was 5.8% (95% CI 3.3% to 10.0%). Of anti-HCV positive participants contacted (51%), 28% (n = 5) first learned of their HCV status from this survey. Continued efforts to prevent new infections in known risk behavior groups are essential, along with expansion of HCV screening and activities to prevent disease progression in people with chronic HCV.