How common is Hepatitis C?


Topic: Hepatitis C, June 2000

Dr. Lee:
How common is Hepatitis C infection in this country?

Dr. Edward Block:
Well, Dennis, it is common. There are over 4 million people in this country who test positive for hepatitis C antibody. That means 2% of Americans today test positive for the hepatitis C antibody. Testing positive for the hepatitis C antibody suggest having had exposure to the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Dr. Lee:
How many new cases (new infections) of HCV do you think occur in this country?

Dr. Edward Block:
The incidence of new cases has actually dropped quite precipitously. In the 1980's, almost 200,000 new infections occur per year. In the 1990's, there are approximately 30,000 new cases a year. This reduction in the rate of new infections is the result of sensitive blood tests being used to detect the virus in donated blood and in individuals at high risk for having HCV.

Still, because of the many individuals who became infected 10 to 20 years ago, the number of deaths (or the need for liver transplantation) due to the complications of chronic HCV liver disease is expected to triple within the next decade or two.

The published answers represent the opinions and perspectives of the doctors and pharmacists of and are for educational purposes only. They should not be used to replace or substitute for timely consultation with your doctor. Accuracy of information cannot be guaranteed.

Please remember, information can be subject to interpretation and can become obsolete.

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