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Keywords:

  • hepatitis C virus infection;
  • seroepidemiology survey;
  • risk factors

Abstract

The objective of this study was to investigate the prevalence of antibodies against the hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) and the associated risk factors in a representative sample of the population of Catalonia, Spain. Serum samples from 2,142 subjects aged between 5 and 70 years, selected at random from urban and rural habitats, were studied. Multiple logistic regression analysis was carried out to determine variables associated independently with the presence of HCV antibodies. The age and gender standardized prevalence of anti-HCV was 2.5% (95% confidence interval, 1.8–3.2). Prevalence increased significantly with age (P < 0.001), but no other sociodemographic variables were associated with HCV infection. Tattoos (OR: 6.2), blood transfusions (OR: 5.0) intravenous drug use (OR: 4.9) and antecedents of hospitalization (OR: 2.3) were variables associated independently with infection. HCV infection affects mainly elderly people in Spain and spares children and adolescents. This suggests that major exposure to HCV may have occurred many years ago, when infection was more widespread than in recent years. J. Med. Virol. 65:688–693, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.