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High Hep C levels found among young low-income women

UCSF researchers have found that low-income women between the ages of 18 and 29 in San Francisco are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) at a level almost two and a half times higher than the HCV infection rate for the general population in the United States.

We studied four Northern California counties, and San Francisco had the highest HCV infection level, 4.3%--nationally the level is 1.8%. Injection drug use is the strongest risk factor, but we were surprised to find that co-infection with herpes simplex virus type-2 (HSV-2) was also significantly associated with hepatitis C infection. This suggests that infection with HSV-2 may be a co-factor for sexual transmission of hepatitis C, said Kimberly A. Page-Shafer, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at UCSFs Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, lead author of the study published in the April issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

We also found that non-injection drug use, specifically cocaine, contributed appreciably to increased risk. Public health efforts to prevent transmission of hepatitis C virus in low-income areas need to go beyond needles and include interventions to reduce sexually transmitted diseases and non-needle drug use, said Page-Shafer.

The study analyzed data collected from the Young Womens Survey, a population-based door to door survey that measured the prevalence of HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and related risk behavior in young women in Northern California residing in low-income neighborhoods (US census block groups below the tenth percentile for median household income). After San Francisco, Alameda County had the next highest HCV prevalence, 3.8%. In San Joaquin County 1.4% of women were infected. No HCV infections were identified in San Mateo County.

Very low income was the strongest socioeconomic correlation. Of the women in the study whose income was below five hundred dollars a month, 5.1% were infected with HCV.


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Contact: Jeff Sheehy
jsheehy@psg.ucsf.edu
415 597 8165
University of California - San Francisco
2-Apr-2002


Page: 1

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