This article provides a new prevalence estimate of hepatitis C (HCV) among non-institutionalized adults in the United States. The findings highlight the complicated relationship between the opioid crisis, the availability of curative treatment, and ongoing deaths among people with HCV.
Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers concluded that from 2013-2016, 1.7% of all adults (or about 4.1 million people) had past or current HCV infection, as shown by the presence of HCV antibodies. Of this total, 1% (or about 2.4 million people) were also HCV RNA-positive, which shows current infection. Compared to past data, there may be more people who have ever had HCV but fewer people with current infection. The authors suggest that these numbers reflect how opioid use has led to increased total HCV cases but that the availability of treatment has reduced current infections.
The authors also provide HCV-RNA (current infection) prevalence estimates for four specialized populations by using research articles and population size estimations, including incarcerated people, (10.7%) unsheltered homeless people (10.8%), active-duty military personnel (0.5%), and people living in nursing homes (0.5%).