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Elevated prevalence of hepatitis C infection in users of United States veterans medical centers

Authors

  • Jason A. Dominitz,

    Corresponding author
    1. Epidemiologic Research and Information Center, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
    2. Northwest Hepatitis C Resource Center, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
    3. Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA
    • VA Puget Sound Health Care System, S-111-Gastro, 1660 S. Columbian Way, Seattle, WA 98108-1597
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    • fax: 206-277-4495

  • Edward J. Boyko,

    1. Epidemiologic Research and Information Center, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
    2. Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA
    3. Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
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  • Thomas D. Koepsell,

    1. Epidemiologic Research and Information Center, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
    2. Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA
    3. Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
    4. Department of Health Services, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
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  • Patrick J. Heagerty,

    1. Epidemiologic Research and Information Center, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
    2. Department of Biostatistics, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
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  • Charles Maynard,

    1. Epidemiologic Research and Information Center, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
    2. Department of Health Services, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
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  • Jennifer L. Sporleder

    1. Epidemiologic Research and Information Center, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
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  • Conflict of interest: Nothing to report.

Abstract

Several studies suggest veterans have a higher prevalence of hepatitis C virus infection than nonveterans, possibly because of military exposures. The purpose of this study was to estimate the prevalence of anti–hepatitis C antibody and evaluate factors associated with infection among users of Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers. Using a two-staged cluster sample, 1,288 of 3,863 randomly selected veterans completed a survey and underwent home-based phlebotomy for serological testing. Administrative and clinical data were used to correct the prevalence estimate for nonparticipation. The prevalence of anti–hepatitis C antibody among serology participants was 4.0% (95% CI, 2.6%-5.5%). The estimated prevalence in the population of Veterans Affairs medical center users was 5.4% (95% CI, 3.3%-7.5%) after correction for sociodemographic and clinical differences between participants and nonparticipants. Significant predictors of seropositivity included demographic factors, period of military service (e.g., Vietnam era), prior diagnoses, health care use, and lifestyle factors. At least one traditional risk factor (transfusion or intravenous drug use) was reported by 30.2% of all subjects. Among those testing positive for hepatitis C antibody, 78% either had a transfusion or had used injection drugs. Adjusting for injection drug use and nonparticipation, seropositivity was associated with tattoos and incarceration. Military-related exposures were not found to be associated with infection in the adjusted analysis. In conclusion, the prevalence of hepatitis C in these subjects exceeds the estimate from the general US population by more than 2-fold, likely reflecting more exposure to traditional risk factors among these veterans. (HEPATOLOGY 2005;41:88–96.)

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