Prevalence - United States
Hepatitis C has only recently gained very much attention with the American medical community, and has still not received much in the way of national attention. Studies have only recently been given real priority.
A medical survey of a representative group of Americans tested between 1988 and 1994 concluded that approximately 1.8% of the general population of the United States carried the antibody to hepatitis C in their bloodstream, which placed the the number of Americans with HCV at 3.9 million persons. More recent studies using newer assays have pushed the suspected rate of infection up to around 2.5%, indicating that around 4.5 million Americans are probably infected.
The pace of newly acquired HCV infection in the U.S. seems to have
slowed somewhat in the last decade. It is estimated that in the 1980s incidence of newly contracted hepatitis C may have reached as much as 180,000 persons a year. By 1995 that figure is believed to have been reduced to 28,000 a year. This decrease in infection is attributed to the introduction of HCV screening of
transfused blood, a decline in HCV infections via I.V. drug from needle- exchange programs and the like, and a general improvement in public awareness of risky behaviors due to the success of the AIDS awareness campaigns. However, almost one-half of newly acquired infections can still be traced to injection drug use.