Global & Disaster Medicine

Archive for the ‘Hepatitis C’ Category

During 2009–2014, maternal HCV infections nearly doubled among reporting states in the United States


Hepatitis C Virus Infection Among Women Giving Birth — Tennessee and United States, 2009–2014

Stephen W. Patrick, MD1; Audrey M. Bauer, DVM2; Michael D. Warren, MD2; Timothy F. Jones, MD2; Carolyn Wester, MD2


What is already known about this topic?Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection affects approximately 3.5 million persons in the United States, making it the most common bloodborne infection in the nation. Recent surveillance data demonstrate increased rates of HCV infection among adolescents and adults who are predominantly white, live in nonurban areas, and have a history of injection drug use.

What is added by this report?During 2009–2014, maternal HCV infections nearly doubled among reporting states in the United States, with substantial state-to-state variation in prevalence. In adjusted analyses of Tennessee births, residence in a rural county was associated with a more than threefold increase in the odds of maternal HCV infection. Smoking during pregnancy and concurrent hepatitis B virus infection imparted fourfold and nearly 17-fold increased odds of maternal HCV infection, respectively.

What are the implications for public health practice?Screening for HCV infection in women of childbearing age and provision of treatment services might reduce perinatal transmission of HCV, and monitoring of HCV-exposed infants can aid in early identification of HCV infection and related liver disease.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects an estimated 3.5 million persons in the United States (1), making it the most common bloodborne infection in the country. Recent surveillance data showed increased rates of HCV infection among adolescents and adults who are predominantly white, live in nonurban areas, and have a history of injection drug use.* U.S. birth certificate data were used to analyze trends and geographic variations in rates of HCV infection among women giving birth during 2009–2014. Birth certificates from Tennessee were used to examine individual characteristics and outcomes associated with HCV infection, using a multivariable model to calculate adjusted odds of HCV-related diagnosis in pregnancy among women with live births. During 2009–2014, HCV infection present at the time of delivery among pregnant women from states reporting HCV on the birth certificate increased 89%, from 1.8 to 3.4 per 1,000 live births. The highest infection rate in 2014 (22.6 per 1,000 live births) was in West Virginia; the rate in Tennessee was 10.1. In adjusted analyses of Tennessee births, the odds of HCV infection were approximately threefold higher among women residing in rural counties than among those in large urban counties, 4.5-fold higher among women who smoked cigarettes during pregnancy, and nearly 17-fold higher among women with concurrent hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. HCV infection among pregnant women is an increasing and potentially modifiable threat to maternal and child health. Clinicians and public health officials should consider individual and population-level opportunities for prevention and risk mitigation.

Data from 2009–2014 were obtained from the National Vital Statistics System and Tennessee Department of Health vital records. The outcome of interest was HCV infection in pregnant women at the time of delivery (maternal HCV infection) as indicated on the infant’s birth certificate. The maternal HCV infection rate per 1,000 deliveries in Tennessee was compared with that from hospital billing data in the Tennessee Hospital Discharge Data System, an all-payer administrative database that includes data for all inpatient admissions in the state. National data were compared with nationally weighted estimates obtained from the National Inpatient Sample, the largest all payer database in the United States.

The first phase of the analysis examined rates of maternal HCV infection reported on infant birth certificates to approximate HCV infection among pregnant women in the United States. Because HCV infection is a revised 2003 birth certificate item, states gradually reported this item over time as they adopted the revised certificate; therefore, rates were calculated based on records from all states§ with available data at any time during 2009 and 2014. The second phase of the analysis used data from Tennessee vital records to assess sociodemographic characteristics, gravidity, health behaviors, and other infections during pregnancy associated with HCV infection in pregnancy. Overall, <1% of data for variables included in the study were missing, with the exception of timing of prenatal care, which was missing for 6.2% of records. To account for missing data, multiple imputation using chained equations with 20 imputations was used. A multivariable logistic regression model was fit to the data to determine increased odds of HCV infection in pregnancy, simultaneously adjusting for maternal age, education, marital status, race/ethnicity, county of residence, number of previous pregnancies, late or no prenatal care, smoking during pregnancy, and other infections present at delivery, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes simplex virus, and HBV. The statistical significance level was set to p<0.05 for all tests. The study was approved by the Tennessee Department of Health’s institutional review board.

During 2009–2014, the prevalence of maternal HCV infection among reporting states increased 89%, from 1.8 to 3.4 per 1,000 live births (p<0.001). There was substantial state-to-state variation in maternal HCV rates: in 2014, the highest rate (22.6 per 1,000 live births) was in West Virginia, and the lowest (0.7) was in Hawaii (Figure 1). In Tennessee, the prevalence of maternal HCV infection increased 163%, from 3.8 per 1,000 live births in 2009 to 10.0 in 2014 (p<0.001). Within Tennessee, there was substantial variation among 95 counties, with the highest rates in the 52 Appalachian counties in the eastern part of the state. For example, in 2014, Campbell County had the highest rate in Tennessee (78 per 1,000 births); 19 other counties had rates of ≤1 per 1,000 births, including 18 counties that reported no cases (Figure 2). Analysis of maternal HCV infection rates based on hospital discharge data resulted in similar findings.

In adjusted analyses of Tennessee births from 2009 to 2014, compared with women without HCV infection, women with diagnosed HCV at the time of live birth had higher odds of having a high school education or less, being unmarried, having late or no prenatal care, and smoking cigarettes. Compared with pregnant non-Hispanic white women, non-Hispanic black women had nearly 80% lower odds, and Hispanic women nearly 70% lower odds of having a diagnosis of HCV. Residing in a rural county was also associated with higher odds of maternal HCV infection. When compared with large central metro areas (counties with >1,000,000 population), the odds of HCV infection among pregnant women from rural areas (counties with <50,000 population) were threefold higher. Concurrent infections also were associated with higher odds of having an HCV diagnosis, with HBV infection resulting in nearly 17-fold increased odds of HCV (Table).



From 2009 to 2014, the prevalence of HCV infection among U.S. women giving birth in reporting states nearly doubled. This increase in maternal HCV infection mirrors increases in HCV infection incidence among adults, particularly nonpregnant young adults in the United States. A recent study identified a similar increase in HCV prevalence among women with recent live births (2); this study builds upon those findings, identifying several patient-level characteristics associated with maternal HCV infection, including white race, rural county residence, cigarette smoking during pregnancy, having a high school education or less, and having a concurrent HBV infection. In the United States, CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend selective screening of pregnant women at high risk for HCV infection (i.e., history of injection drug use or long-term hemodialysis) (3). These data might inform expansion of the definition of women at risk, thereby improving clinical detection, particularly in areas of a state reporting increasing or high rates of incident HCV infection.

The recent increase in maternal HCV infection appears to have disproportionately affected rural and white populations; states and Tennessee counties with the highest prevalence of HCV infection among pregnant women in 2014 were in predominately Appalachian regions.** A recent analysis of state surveillance data examining acute HCV infections in the general population found a near doubling of cases in the United States during 2006–2012, and also found that states in or near Appalachian regions had the highest numbers of cases (4), suggesting that primary prevention and testing and treatment strategies for HCV infection could be targeted to these populations and areas at high risk.

This increase in HCV infection is particularly concerning in light of recent research highlighting poor follow-up of HCV-exposed infants (5). The rate of vertical transmission from infected mothers to infants is estimated at 6% (11% if the mother is coinfected with human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]) (6); therefore, it is important that exposed infants be followed for evidence of seroconversion. Because passively acquired maternal antibodies can persist for up to 18 months, anti-HCV antibody tests cannot be completed until that time; however, testing for HCV RNA can be performed earlier (7). A recent study in Philadelphia found that only 16% of HCV-exposed infants were appropriately followed (5), suggesting that infected infants might go undetected.

The increase in maternal HCV infection coincides with the rising heroin and prescription opioid epidemics occurring in the United States that have also disproportionately affected rural and white populations (8,9). There has also been a recent surge in opioid use among pregnant women (8). Whereas HCV infections have historically been associated with heroin use, a recent outbreak of HIV and HCV in rural Indiana demonstrates that these infections can also be transmitted through use of injectable forms of prescription opioids (10).

The findings in this report are subject to at least three limitations. First, vital records data rely on accurate coding of birth certificates; some variables such as HCV might be undercoded, and misclassification bias might occur. However, evaluation of hospital administrative data reporting of HCV infections suggests that this effect is small. Second, the proportion of live births from which data were collected on HCV status increased during the study period, as more states adopted the revised certificate each year. Because the original reporting states in 2009 were not held constant over time for this analysis, it is possible the trend could be subject to ascertainment bias; however, two additional confirmatory analyses were performed: 1) comparison with the National Inpatient Sample demonstrated similar rates of HCV infection during 2009–2013 (1.8 per 1,000 to 3.1 per 1,000), and 2) the same trend analysis was performed holding the original 28 reporting states in 2009 constant. Results were the same as when using all 47 states that incorporated reporting over time. Because women are not universally screened for HCV in pregnancy, these estimates and analyses do not represent the actual prevalence of HCV in pregnant women. However, the findings of increased disease prevalence among white and rural populations are similar to those of recent studies in nonpregnant populations (4). Instances of multiple births might have resulted in a slight overestimation of rates of maternal HCV infection. Finally, it is important to consider that HCV infections in a given state might represent not only the prevalence of a condition but also the public health efforts implemented to detect and treat the infection.

The prevalence of maternal HCV infection appears to have increased sharply in the United States, presenting concerns for maternal and child health. Ensuring that women of childbearing age have access to HCV testing and treatment and consideration of universal screening among women of reproductive age residing in areas with high HCV prevalence might mitigate risk and prevent transmission.


Maternal records were included in the analysis if they had one or more International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) diagnostic and procedure codes or Diagnosis Related Groups indicating delivery. HCV-positive women were identified using the following ICD-9-CM codes: 070.41, 070.44, 070.51, 070.54, 070.7, 070.70, and 070.71.

§ Data were available for all states except Connecticut, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Data also were not available for the District of Columbia.

Births records where HCV status was either unknown or not collected were excluded from national estimates. Percentage of total births excluded for each year: 31.9% (2009), 22.6% (2010), 14.2% (2011), 11.7% (2012), 9.6% (2013), and 3.6% (2014).




  1. Edlin BR, Eckhardt BJ, Shu MA, Holmberg SD, Swan T. Toward a more accurate estimate of the prevalence of hepatitis C in the United States. Hepatology 2015;62:1353–63. CrossRef PubMed
  2. Koneru A, Nelson N, Hariri S, et al. Increased hepatitis C virus (HCV) detection in women of childbearing age and potential risk for vertical transmission—United States and Kentucky, 2011–2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:705–10. CrossRef PubMed
  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG practice bulletin no. 86: viral hepatitis in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol 2007;110:941–56. CrossRef PubMed
  4. Suryaprasad AG, White JZ, Xu F, et al. Emerging epidemic of hepatitis C virus infections among young nonurban persons who inject drugs in the United States, 2006–2012. Clin Infect Dis 2014;59:1411–9. CrossRef PubMed
  5. Kuncio DE, Newbern EC, Johnson CC, Viner KM. Failure to test and identify perinatally infected children born to hepatitis C-positive women. Clin Infect Dis 2016;62:980–5. CrossRef PubMed
  6. Benova L, Mohamoud YA, Calvert C, Abu-Raddad LJ. Vertical transmission of hepatitis C virus: systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Infect Dis 2014;59:765–73. CrossRef PubMed
  7. American Academy of Pediatrics. Red book: 2012 report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases. 29th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2012
  8. Patrick SW, Dudley J, Martin PR, et al. Prescription opioid epidemic and infant outcomes. Pediatrics 2015;135:842–50. CrossRef PubMed
  9. Zibbell JE, Iqbal K, Patel RC, et al. Increases in hepatitis C virus infection related to injection drug use among persons aged ≤30 years—Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, 2006–2012. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2015;64:453–8. PubMed
  10. Conrad C, Bradley HM, Broz D, et al. Community outbreak of HIV infection linked to injection drug use of oxymorphone—Indiana, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2015;64:443–4. PubMed


Return to your place in the textFIGURE 1. Rate of hepatitis C infection among pregnant women per 1,000 live births, by state — United States, 2014

The above figure is a map of the United States, showing the rate of hepatitis C infection among pregnant women per 1,000 live births, by state in 2014.

Return to your place in the textFIGURE 2. Rate of hepatitis C infection among pregnant women per 1,000 live births, by county — Tennessee, 2014

The above figure is a map of Tennessee, showing the rate of hepatitis C infection among pregnant women per 1,000 live births, by county in 2014.

WHO’s Global Hepatitis Report, 2017: Since 2000, deaths from viral hepatitis have increased by 22%.

Global hepatitis report, 2017: 325 million people, or roughly 4% of the world’s population, lives with viral hepatitis, and the disease causes 1.34 million deaths per year


In May 2016, the World Health Assembly endorsed the Global Health Sector Strategy (GHSS) on viral hepatitis 2016–2021. The GHSS calls for the elimination of viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030 (reducing new infections by 90% and mortality by 65%).

This WHO Global hepatitis report describes, for the first time, the global and regional estimates on viral hepatitis in 2015, setting the baseline for tracking progress in implementing the new global strategy.

The report focuses on hepatitis B and C, which are responsible for 96% of all hepatitis mortality. It presents data along the fi ve strategic directions (strategic information, interventions, equity, financing and innovation) – key pillars of the GHSS to facilitate monitoring of progress in countries, regions and globally, and to measure the impact of interventions on reducing new infections and saving lives between 2015 and 2030.

Related links

New research: The absolute burden and relative rank of viral hepatitis increased between 1990 and 2013.

The global burden of viral hepatitis from 1990 to 2013: findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013                                              Stanaway, Jeffrey D et al.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Lancet

“….Between 1990 and 2013, global viral hepatitis deaths increased from 0·89 million (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 0·86–0·94) to 1·45 million (1·38–1·54); YLLs (years of life lost) from 31·0 million (29·6–32·6) to 41·6 million (39·1–44·7); YLDs (years lived with disability) from 0·65 million (0·45–0·89) to 0·87 million (0·61–1·18); and DALYs (Disability-adjusted life-years) from 31·7 million (30·2–33·3) to 42·5 million (39·9–45·6).
In 2013, viral hepatitis was the seventh (95% UI seventh to eighth) leading cause of death worldwide, compared with tenth (tenth to 12th) in 1990……”


CDC: Eliminating Hepatitis C in the Country of Georgia


Global Disease Detection Stories: Going Above and Beyond to Eliminate Hepatitis C in the Country of Georgia

Georgia is the first country to take on the challenge of completely eliminating Hepatitis C (HCV) – a serious viral infection – and they’re using a team of international disease detectives to find out how it’s spreading.

To stop a disease in its tracks, you need to get ahead of it. Sometimes this means going off the beaten path, into remote villages where your GPS doesn’t work, into people’s homes and businesses. Sometimes the people there speak your language, sometimes they don’t. But when the disease you’re tracking doesn’t know any boundaries, neither can you.

In the country of Georgia, the culprit is Hepatitis C (HCV). HCV is a serious viral infection that, over time, can cause liver damage and even liver cancer. Almost 7% of Georgia’s population is affected by this disease — the third highest rate in the world. As part of an ongoing collaboration, epidemiologist Dr. Stephanie Salyer, who is based at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, and her team have been in the field conducting a door-to-door survey to find out how HCV is spreading.

A unique set of challenges

Particularly in the country of Georgia, language barriers can present a challenge. In some areas, Georgian citizens speak Armenian and Azerbaijani languages, but little to no Georgian. To address this, a diverse group of 45 field staff from Georgia’s National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), joined by Field Epidemiology Training Program residents from Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, were selected and trained to conduct the survey.

Each team surveyed 25 households per day, which is harder than it sounds. Teams used GPS units and Google maps to locate homes to survey, but, particularly in rural areas, navigation proved challenging. More than once, teams – which included interviewers, nurses, and drivers — ended up hiking in the middle of nowhere past abandoned houses. The teams worked long hours and became “like a family,” said Salyer.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge was “hearing heartbreaking stories from people in the field with Hepatitis C. A lot of team members personally knew people impacted by this disease. That is why we were so invested in this project. This really highlights the tragedy of Hepatitis C in Georgia: it has touched almost everybody in the country,” said Salyer.

Putting data to work

Teams in the field used smart phone technology to enter the survey responses, automatically uploading the data into the cloud. Survey participants benefited by learning their HCV status, receiving health education materials in their preferred language, and getting their BMI and blood pressure measured. Public health nurses on the survey teams referred participants to local health care facilities and national information hotlines if needed.

Survey results are already informing national strategy. Experts assumed that HCV in Georgia could be traced back to intravenous drug use, reusing syringes, or being previously incarcerated. New information may indicate that transmission could also be associated with lack of infection control surrounding medical and dental procedures, and even tattoo parlors and manicure salons. Data is making researchers look in a new direction.

A strong commitment

The team locates survey households in Georgia.

The team locates survey households in Georgia. Georgia’s survey teams really went above and beyond.

The results from this survey will inform where to target prevention messages and who can benefit from treatment and screening. A remarkable public-private partnership with pharmaceutical manufacturer Gilead Sciences is supporting the program by providing 5,000 courses of the medication Sovaldi for the initial phase, followed by 20,000 courses of Harvoni free annually.

Several factors make HCV elimination a possibility in Georgia: the availability of effective diagnostics and treatment; the country’s small size and population; experience with HIV prevention and control programs; and strong political will and public support. Despite this, limitations exist in Georgia’s ability to track cases, reduce transmission, and provide care and treatment. Most infected people remain untested and unaware of their infection.

The principal investigator and one of the team’s phlebotomists even appeared on a local talk show to educate the public about Hepatitis C and encourage survey participation in cities.

Salyer recalls the commitment of the survey teams: “They went above and beyond. I would have to force them to come back at the end of the day.”

Progress in eliminating HCV in Georgia is a product of strong collaboration with the U.S. CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis in Atlanta and Georgia’s National Center for Disease Control. This work is coordinated through the GDD Regional Center for Georgia and the South Caucasus, which is part of CDC’s country office. Georgia is one of 30 U.S. partner countries named in the Global Health Security Agenda.  


At a Glance expanded expanded

  • Hepatitis C (HCV) is a serious viral infection that can cause liver cancer
  • HCV affects an estimated 7% of the population in the country of Georgia
  • Georgia is the first country in the world to try to eliminate HCV nationwide
  • The results from a collaborative survey will be used to target prevention messages and treatment

Six million Egyptians were infected with hepatitis C by unsterile needles during the country’s decades-long fight against schistosomiasis.

NY Times

**   “…, at least 10 percent of Egyptians, nearly nine million people, are chronically infected, the highest rate in the world….

**  “….Mr. Ellabbad…was finally cured of hepatitis this spring. An air-conditioning repairman, he took a three-month regimen that included sofosbuvir, first of the new generation of miracle drugs. The pills would have cost more than $84,000 in the United States.  He got them free from the Egyptian government, which paid about $900…..”

Pyramids at Giza, Egypt



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