About 3 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, according to CDC statistics, and up to
75 percent of them have no idea. "Hepatitis C has few noticeable symptoms, and left undiagnosed
it threatens the health of far too many Americans -- especially baby boomers," Dr. John Ward, director
of CDC's Division of Viral Hepatitis, said in the news release. "Identifying those who are currently
infected is important because new effective treatments can cure the infection
better than ever before, as well as eliminate the risk of transmission to
others." Only 51 percent of people in the U.S. who test positive for hepatitis
C received the necessary follow- up to determine if they require medical care,
that is a viral load test called HCV-RNA, according to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. The HCV-RNA viral load test tells one exactly how much,
if any, virus is in the blood. A significant percent of individuals who have
been exposed to HCV & thus would test positive to an HCV antibody test can
clear HCV spontaneously but they need the HCV RNA test to determine this and
determine if they need to followup by seeing a care provider, a doctor or nurse
who specializes in hepatitis C care & treatment, today most major hospitals
have a special hepatitis clinic that provides care & treatment, or smaller
clinics can run the test, its just an ordinary blood test, and refer you to a
specialist for care. The follow-up test, called an RNA test, determines whether
a patient is infected and requires medical treatment. About 20 percent of
people with antibody-positive tests clear the virus on their own, but most
remain infected and go on to have health problems, the CDC said. Although this
report as does the CDC in general refer to this disease, HCV, as one affecting
'baby boomers': "persons were most likely to have been born during 1945-1965
(58.5% of those who were HCV antibody positive only; 67.2% of those who were
HCV RNA positive), and "The highest percentage of these deaths occurred among
persons aged 50-59 years (44.8%), and most deaths (71.5%) were among those born
during 1945-1965, compared with other years". It is a fully characterize who
can be affected, it is important to realize 30-50% are not from the baby boomer
generation......Baby boomers, in fact, are five times more likely to have
hepatitis C, according to the CDC. The disease is spread mostly through contact
with infected blood, and some adults may have gotten infected before widespread
blood screening was enforced in 1992. Other high-risk groups that should get
tested include people who received blood products with clotting factor prior to
1987, people with HIV, people who have been on kidney dialysis for several
years, health and public safety workers who have been struck with a needle or
people who have injected drugs -- even if it was only once a long time ago, and
sexual transmission is possible although it occurs infrequently & the risk
is low, sexual transmission can be facilitated when one sex partner has an STD
which includes HIV.
"Many people who test
positive on an initial hepatitis C test are not receiving the necessary
follow-up test to know if their body has cleared the virus or if they are still
infected," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in an agency news release.
"Complete testing is critical to ensure that those who are infected receive the
care and treatment for hepatitis C that they need in order to prevent liver
cancer and other serious and potentially deadly health consequences."
"Identifying those who are currently infected is important
because new effective treatments can cure the infection better than ever
before, as well as eliminate the risk of transmission to others," said John
Ward, M.D., director of CDC's division of viral hepatitisTwo rounds of testing
are needed to confirm a diagnosis of hepatitis C. The first stage checks to see
if a person has mounted a immune response to the virus. When this happens, a
person will produce antibodies that recognize the germ, and these antibodies
can be detected by a medical test.This immune response can sometimes clear the
virus in two out of 10 cases, but the majority - 3 million Americans - will
establish permanent infections. These can only be confirmed by a follow-up
genetic screening for the virus' RNA.Of 200,000 new hepatitis cases surveyed
for this study, over half failed to return to their doctor's office for this
second genetic test.In response to these findings, the CDC is issuing updated
guidelines for health care providers on hepatitis C testing.One recommendation
is that baby boomers, who are defined as patients born from 1945 through 1965,
and all persons at risk should ask their doctor, nurse, or other health care
provider about getting tested for hepatitis C."Hepatitis C has few noticeable
symptoms, and left undiagnosed it threatens the health of far too many
Americans - especially baby boomers," said Dr. Ward.
may not remember everything that happened in the '60s and '70s, but your liver
does," Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC said today in a conference call
with reporters. "The bottom line here is if you're born between those years,
get tested." .......Authorities say many people in the targeted group may have
been infected in their teens and 20s, either through blood transfusions or with
experimental drug use, and don't know they have the virus. Hepatitis C often
shows no symptoms while it damages the liver.
Vital Signs: Evaluation of Hepatitis C Virus Infection Testing
and Reporting - Eight U.S. Sites, 2005-2011
May 7, 2013 / 62(Early Release);1-5
Background: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a serious
public health problem. New infections continue to occur, and morbidity and
mortality are increasing among an estimated 2.7-3.9 million persons in the
United States living with HCV infection. Most persons are unaware of their
infection status. Existing CDC guidelines for laboratory testing and reporting
of antibody to HCV do not distinguish between past infection that has resolved
and current infection that requires care and evaluation for treatment. To
identify current infection, a test for HCV RNA is needed.
Methods: Surveillance data reported to CDC from eight U.S.
sites during 2005-2011 were analyzed to determine the proportion of persons
newly reported on the basis of a positive test result for HCV infection.
Persons reported with a positive result from an HCV antibody test only were
compared with persons reported with a positive result for HCV RNA and examined
by birth cohort (1945-1965 compared with all other years), surveillance site,
and number of reported deaths. Annual rates of persons newly reported with HCV
infection in 2011 also were calculated for each site.
Of 217,755 persons newly reported, 107,209 (49.2%) were HCV antibody positive
only, and 110,546 (50.8%) were reported with a positive HCV RNA result that
confirmed current HCV infection. In both groups, persons were most likely to
have been born during 1945-1965 (58.5% of those who were HCV antibody positive
only; 67.2% of those who were HCV RNA positive). Among all persons newly
reported for whom death data were available, 6,734 (3.4%) were known to have
died; deaths were most likely among persons aged 50-59 years. In 2011, across
all sites, the annual rate of persons newly reported with HCV infection
(positive HCV antibody only and HCV RNA positive) was 84.7 per 100,000
Conclusions: Hepatitis C is
a commonly reported disease predominantly affecting persons born during
1945-1965, with deaths more frequent among persons of relatively young age. The
lack of an HCV RNA test for approximately one half of persons newly reported
suggests that testing and reporting must improve to detect all persons with
Implications for Public
Health: In an era of continued HCV transmission and expanding options for
curative antiviral therapies, surveillance that identifies current HCV
infection can help assess the need for services and link persons with infection
to appropriate care and treatment.
In the United
States, hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a common bloodborne infection.
Based on data from national surveys, an estimated 3.2 (95% confidence interval
[CI] = 2.7-3.9) million persons in the United States are living with hepatitis
C (1). Once infected, approximately 80% of persons remain infected (i.e.,
chronically infected) and are at risk for substantial morbidity and mortality
in later life (2). Although treatment can be curative, an estimated 45%-85% of
infected persons are unaware of their HCV infection (3). HCV infection is a
major cause of liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer (4-7), and
in the United States, is the leading indication for liver transplantation (8).
Moreover, rates of liver cancer and deaths from HCV infection have increased
over time; approximately 15,000 HCV-associated deaths were recorded in 2007
(4,9). In addition, considerable costs are associated with HCV infection, both
in lost productivity and health-care expenditures (10-11). CDC guidelines for
HCV laboratory testing and reporting, published in 2003, do not focus on
identifying persons with current infection (12); therefore, depending on the
HCV test used, reports to surveillance programs can include persons with a test
result indicating past HCV infection that has resolved and also persons with a
test result that identifies current HCV infection. Analysis of state and local
surveillance data can be used to assess the proportion of persons who might
need additional testing to discriminate previous resolved infection from
current infection. Analysis of such data also can estimate the number of
persons with current HCV infection requiring clinical assessment for treatment,
as well as guide prevention strategies. In addition, these surveillance data
can serve as a baseline for indirectly evaluating use of the recent HCV testing
recommendations to identify HCV infection among persons born during 1945-1965,
a group that demonstrates the highest prevalence of infection, compared with
those born in other years (3). Finally, examining mortality patterns among
persons reported with current HCV infection can improve understanding of the
natural history of the disease.
In 2011, CDC
supported surveillance for HCV infection at eight U.S. sites (Colorado,
Connecticut, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York City, New York state, Oregon, and
San Francisco). CDC began receiving data in 2005 from four sites (Colorado,
Minnesota, New York state and Oregon), one site in 2006 (New Mexico), two sites
in 2008 (New York City and San Francisco), and one site in 2009 (Connecticut).
For all sites, clinical laboratories reported only positive test results of HCV
infection (i.e., from HCV antibody testing or from HCV RNA testing); health
departments did not require reporting of negative results.
Reports were reviewed and de-duplicated to ensure that persons with
newly reported positive HCV test results were included only once in the
For this analysis,
persons reported to CDC during 2005-2011 were categorized as 1) reported with
only a positive test result for HCV antibody (HCV antibody positive only) or 2)
reported with a positive HCV RNA result from HCV nucleic acid testing or HCV
genotyping (HCV RNA positive). Persons who tested HCV antibody positive only
were considered as having had a past HCV infection that had resolved, a
false-positive test result, or current HCV infection. Persons who tested HCV
RNA positive were considered currently HCV infected. Although no laboratory
test exists to distinguish acute from chronic HCV infection, for the purpose of
this study all persons determined to be currently infected were considered to
have chronic infection.
Each group (HCV
antibody positive only and HCV RNA positive) was examined by birth cohort
(1945-1965 compared with all other birth years) and surveillance site. Annual
rates of all persons newly reported per 100,000 population in 2011 also were
calculated for each site using denominators available from U.S. Census
population estimates (available at http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab). In
addition, seven of the sites reported the frequency of known deaths from any
cause among persons newly reported with HCV infection. Sites matched their
hepatitis C databases with vital records at the person level. Death status was
examined by sex, age group, birth cohort, and type of test result (HCV antibody
positive only or HCV RNA positive).
During 2005-2011, among the eight sites, a total of 217,755 persons
were newly reported with a positive test result for HCV infection. Of these,
107,209 (49.2%) were HCV antibody positive only and 110,546 (50.8%) were HCV
RNA positive. In both groups, persons were more likely born during 1945-1965.
Persons born during these years accounted for 58.5% of those who were HCV
antibody positive only and 67.2% of those who were HCV RNA positive (Table 1).
The distribution of persons reported on the
basis of positive HCV antibody only varied by site, ranging from 76% in New
Mexico to 23% in Minnesota (Figure). Among sites reporting deaths, 6,734 (3.4%)
of 197,844 persons newly reported with HCV infection were known to have died.
The highest percentage of these deaths occurred among persons aged 50-59 years
(44.8%), and most deaths (71.5%) were among those born during 1945-1965,
compared with other years. The percentage of deaths among persons reported with
HCV antibody positive only (4.6%) was significantly higher than among those
reported as HCV RNA positive (2.4%; p<0.01). In 2011, the annual rate of all
persons newly reported with HCV infection (positive HCV antibody only and HCV
RNA positive) across all sites was 84.7 per 100,000 population (range: 36.0 in
Minnesota to 239.2 in San Francisco) (Table 2).
Conclusions and Comment
These data show that approximately one half of persons newly
reported with HCV infection to state or local authorities at eight surveillance
sites did not have a report of a positive HCV RNA test; thus, it was not
possible to determine whether the reports indicated past resolved HCV infection
or current HCV infection. Previous studies have shown similar results. A
separate analysis of surveillance data reported for 2006-2007 found that 47.3%
of persons reported with positive HCV antibody did not have HCV RNA test
results (13). A multisite cohort study of patients in care for chronic viral
hepatitis revealed that 37.7% of 9,086 patients with a positive HCV antibody
test during 2006-2008 had no documented follow-up testing for HCV RNA (14). A
retrospective study of HCV antibody testing in selected U.S. primary-care
settings among persons born during 1945-1965 found that, among patients who
were antibody positive, 32% received no follow-up HCV RNA testing (15). In New
York City, 33% of persons reported through routine surveillance did not have
HCV RNA testing (16).
Given these findings and
recent developments in both HCV testing technologies and clinical care for
persons with HCV infection, CDC is amending the guidelines for HCV laboratory
testing and result reporting that have been in use since 2003 (12). In guidance
accompanying this Vital Signs report, CDC recommends following a positive HCV
antibody test with HCV RNA testing (17). This guidance is also consistent with
that provided in the 2012 HCV testing recommendations for persons born during
1945-1965 (3). The new guidelines will help identify persons with current HCV
infection and provide the data necessary to link those who are infected to
care, including preventive services, medical management, and evaluation for
An unexpected result was
the finding of a significantly greater percentage of deaths among persons who
were HCV antibody positive only compared with those who were HCV RNA positive.
Because persons in the latter group have demonstrated current infection, they
would be expected to fare less well than those who were HCV antibody positive
only and might or might not be currently infected. The difference between the
groups in the percentage of deaths might be explained by health-care access.
HCV RNA testing might not be available in sites providing HCV antibody testing
and RNA testing requires successful referral to a health-care provider. Thus,
this finding could suggest that persons reported on the basis of a positive HCV
antibody test only might have had less opportunity to access health care or
might have accessed health care less often than those with current
This study also revealed a high rate
of reported HCV infection at these U.S. sites, especially among persons born
during 1945-1965. These findings reinforce recent CDC recommendations for HCV
antibody testing of persons born during 1945-1965, and linkage to care for
those with a follow-up positive result after HCV RNA testing (3). These data
further showed that deaths were more likely among persons aged 50-59 years and
among persons born during 1945-1965 compared with those born in other years,
illustrating the important impact of HCV infection on years of life lost.
The findings in this report are subject to at
least five limitations. First, state and local health departments only report
positive HCV test results to CDC.
Thus, it was
not known whether persons who were reported HCV antibody positive only might
actually have been tested for HCV RNA with a negative result. Another
possibility is that HCV RNA testing was performed with a positive result, but
was not reported. Second, some positive HCV antibody test results might have
been false-positives. However, the high specificity of 3rd generation HCV
antibody assays used during the period of study would have minimized the number
of false positives (18). Third, among sites, there was variation in reporting
by health-care providers, laboratories, and health departments, which might
affect the consistency of the information reported. For example, the
Connecticut hepatitis C surveillance system did not enter HCV RNA results for
persons reported with a positive antibody test that previously had been
confirmed to be positive for antibody to HCV by another laboratory test.
Fourth, some sites began reporting surveillance data to CDC in 2006 or 2008,
and in one case, 2009, thereby underestimating the number of cases reported
during the entire 2005-2011 study period. In contrast, the number of deaths
reported was from all-cause mortality, and therefore was likely an
overestimation of HCV-attributable mortality. Finally, HCV surveillance data
might not be representative of all persons with HCV infection, and the findings
from these eight sites might not be representative of other U.S. cities and
Monitoring current HCV infection in
states and localities can help gauge what interventions and services are needed
to identify persons with HCV infection and effectively link them to appropriate
care and treatment. This is of particular importance now in an era of continued
HCV transmission and rapidly improving therapeutic options for persons living
with HCV infection. To help identify persons with current HCV infection, public
health and clinical care providers can offer HCV antibody testing to persons
born during 1945-1965, in addition to those with other HCV risk factors, and
test for HCV RNA those persons who test positive for HCV antibody. Laboratories
can ensure that test results are reported to state and local health
authorities, and health departments can develop strategies to monitor and
increase the use of HCV RNA testing of persons who are HCV antibody
Bornschlegel, MPH, New York City Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York,
New York. Deborah Holtzman, PhD, R. Monina Klevens, DDS, John W. Ward, MD, Div
of Viral Hepatitis, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB
Prevention, CDC. Corresponding contributor: Deborah Holtzman,
New Mexico Department of Health; Kashif Iqbal, Division of Viral Hepatitis,
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention; Emily
McGibbon, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Elena M.
Rizzo, New York State Department of Health; Melissa Sanchez, San Francisco
Department of Public Health; Suzanne Speers, Connecticut Department of Public
Health; Kristin Sweet, Minnesota Department of Health; Ann Thomas, Oregon
Public Health Division; Candace Vonderwahl, Colorado Department of Public
Health and Environment.
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· CDC guidelines for laboratory
testing and result reporting of antibody to hepatitis C virus (HCV) published
in 2003 and developed in the era of limited treatment options fail to identify
many persons with current HCV infection. As such, about one half of persons
newly reported with hepatitis C lack HCV RNA results, which are necessary to
identify current infection.
· In 2011, the
overall annual rate of persons newly reported with hepatitis C was 84.7 per
100,000 population; rates varied by site.
highest percentage of persons with current HCV infection and the highest
percentage of deaths among all persons newly reported with hepatitis C were
among those born during 1945-1965, particularly those aged 50-59 years.
· Additional information is available at http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns.