The global burden of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is distressing. “[A]n estimated 130–170 million persons (2%–3% of the world’s population) are living with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection . This infection, particularly in its chronic form, is associated with sizable morbidity and mortality. More than 350 000 deaths are attributed to HCV infection each year, most of which are caused by liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).”
The HCV mode of transmission, however, varies depending on whether a country is developing or developed. “Whereas HCV transmission in developing countries frequently results from exposure to infected blood and blood products in healthcare and community settings, HCV infections in most developed countries are associated with injection drug use (ie, personal behavior typically of an illicit nature).” HCV transmission via infected blood is rare in developed countries because blood donations are typically screened for C.
Individuals infected with HCV often suffer from other ailments. For instance, 30 percent of the 33 million indivduals infected with HIV also are infected with HCV. “Coinfection with HIV is associated with accelerated
progression of liver disease and increased mortality among HCV-infected persons, and some studies suggest that it may increase the risk of mother-to-child HCV transmission.”
Cohorts at greatest risk for HCV infection in the U.S. include those born between 1945 and 1964 as well as foreign-born residents.
- Francisco M. Averhoff, Nancy Glass, and Deborah Holtzman. Global Burden of Hepatitis C: Considerations. Clinical Infectious Diseases 2012;55(S1):S10–15.