Current estimates of the prevalence of hepatitis C in the United States are based on data from the third study of the National Center for Health Statistics (NHANES III), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2). Serum samples from 21,241 persons, age >6 yr, who participated in the study between 1988 and 1994, were analyzed for both antibody to hepatitis C and HCV RNA. The results indicate that the prevalence of seropositivity to hepatitis C virus antibody in the general population of the United States is 1.8%, representing approx 3,900,000 citizens. 74% of patients positive for hepatitis C virus antibody were also positive for HCV RNA, indicating that 2,700,000 U.S. citizens are currently chronically infected with hepatitis C. The number of patients with CHC dwarfs the number infected with either HBV (~1.25 million) or HIV (~0.9 million).
Despite these impressive statistics, the United States is considered a low-prevalence population (3). Surveillance studies from across the world indicate relatively low prevalence (<2.5%) in North America, Europe, Russia, and Japan, and high prevalence (>2.5%) in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia, including China. In some countries, prevalence exceeds 10% (Bolivia, Egypt, and Mongolia).
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