Differences and Disparities in Hepatitis C Rates in the United States: Race, Gender, and Geography

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major concern, especially among certain populations. The number of American adults with HCV infections exceeds 2 million.1 In recent years, HCV has been spreading quickly to more people in younger age groups.2,3

A study published in 2020 focuses on American adults affected by HCV between 2013 and 2016. Dr. Heather Bradley at the Georgia State University School of Public Health led the study. She and her team used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They also used numbers from the National Vital Statistics System and external literature. The study model estimated HCV infections in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (DC). The results showed differences in HCV infection rates for distinct age groups, genders, races, and states.

Differences among age groups

The study looked at three age groups: people born before 1945, people born between 1945 and 1969, and people born after 1969. The second group consists mainly of Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers are people who were born in the time frame from 1945 to 1965.4

The results show that people born between 1945 and 1969 had a higher amount of HCV infection. The percent of HCV infection for this group was 1.6. For people born before 1945, the percent was 0.2. People born after 1969 had a rate of 0.5 percent. Thus, people born from 1945 to 1969 were 3.2 times more likely to have HCV infection.4

The gap between genders

The study confirmed what statistics show about the gap between genders. HCV affects more males than females. The rate of HCV infection was 1.3 percent for males and 0.6 percent for females. This means HCV infection occurs 2.3 times more in males than in females.4

The rate among racial groups

The study showed that HCV is most common in non-Hispanic black people. The rate was 1.8 percent for this group compared to 0.8 percent for other races/ethnicities. Thus, HCV infection occurs in non-Hispanic black people 2.2 times more than in other races/ethnicities.4

Variation across states

The breakdown of data across U.S. states and DC revealed some variation in rates of HCV infection. This proved to be true for the different age groups, genders, and races.

The highest variation in HCV infection rates for different locations was seen in age groups. The rate for people born between 1945 and 1969 was as low as 0.7 percent in North Dakota. For the same age group, the rate reached a high of 6.8 percent in DC.4 Some states had greater than average rates for people born after 1969, the youngest age group. Kentucky, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and West Virginia were among these states.4

The range of HCV infection rates was not as wide among genders. For males, the rate went from 0.6 percent in North Dakota to 2.7 percent in Oklahoma. The rate among females ranged from 0.2 percent in North Dakota to 1.8 percent in DC.4 The rate of HCV infection also varied among races in different locations. North Dakota had the lowest percent for non-Hispanic black people at 0.9. DC had the highest percent for non-Hispanic black people at 4.9.4

What these numbers mean

These numbers can guide efforts to increase awareness of HCV and decrease infections in the most affected groups. These groups include Baby Boomers, males, non-Hispanic black people, and residents of DC and other states. Locations with higher rates could perhaps employ more prevention, detection, and treatment measures. Targeted efforts can help lower the number of cases, complex problems, and deaths from HCV.

If you are in one of the groups most affected by HCV, you can talk to a doctor about testing. Early detection can speed the start of treatment. This can improve your health outcomes and reduce the cost of treatment.

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