Epidemiology of hepatitis C: geographic differences and temporal trends

Semin Liver Dis. 2000;20(1):1-16. doi: 10.1055/s-2000-9506.


Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection appears to be endemic in most parts of the world, with an estimated overall prevalence of 3%. However, there is considerable geographic and temporal variation in the incidence and prevalence of HCV infection. Using age-specific prevalence data, at least three distinct transmission patterns can be identified. In countries with the first pattern (e.g., United States, Australia), most infections are found among persons 30-49 years old, indicating that the risk for HCV infection was greatest in the relatively recent past (10-30 years ago) and primarily affected young adults. In countries with the second pattern (e.g., Japan, Italy), most infections are found among older persons, consistent with the risk for HCV infection having been greatest in the distant past. In countries with the third pattern (e.g., Egypt), high rates of infection are observed in all age groups, indicating an ongoing high risk for acquiring HCV infection. In countries with the first pattern, injection drug use has been the predominant risk factor for HCV infection, whereas in those with the second or third patterns, unsafe injections and contaminated equipment used in healthcare-related procedures appear to have played a predominant role in transmission. Much of the variability between regions can be explained by the frequency and extent to which different risk factors have contributed to the transmission of HCV. Because different strategies are required to interrupt different patterns of HCV transmission, determining the epidemiology of HCV infection in areas where that information has not yet been assessed is critical for developing appropriate prevention programs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Asia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious* / prevention & control
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hepacivirus / isolation & purification*
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis C / prevention & control
  • Hepatitis C / therapy
  • Hepatitis C / transmission*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Survival Rate
  • United States / epidemiology