Objective: To determine the reservoir and risk factors of HCV infection in a hospital population.
Methods: The presence of anti-HCV in 2,119 endoscopy patients was related to putative risk factors for exposure using the SAS statistical package.
Results: Most of the 4.7% of anti-HCV positive patients had multiple risk factors for HCV exposure. The risk was significantly increased in patients; with a previous history of hepatitis (36.4 fold), past history of injecting drugs (IDU) (32.1 fold), those born in North Africa, Middle East and Mediterranean countries (4.3 fold), had been tattooed before 1980s (3.3 fold), from 1980s-1990s (5.9 fold), had acupuncture before 1980s (3.8 fold), had a blood transfusion (3.6 fold), had clotting factors or growth hormone (4 fold), had contact with someone diagnosed with hepatitis in 1990s (4.1 fold). Of the anti-HCV patients 38 had a history of IDU, 43 were migrants and 10 were both.
Conclusion: Anti-HCV prevalence was five times higher than predicted by the passive surveillance scheme and 20% of patients were unaware of their infection. Only one of these patients reported IDU. The evidence of HCV intersecting epidemics between developing and developed countries in Australia was strongly supported.
Implications: The study provides a rational basis for targeted programs to identify asymptomatic HCV carriers who might benefit from the new antiviral treatment.