Emerging epidemic of hepatitis C virus infections among young nonurban persons who inject drugs in the United States, 2006-2012

Clin Infect Dis. 2014 Nov 15;59(10):1411-9. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciu643. Epub 2014 Aug 11.


Background: Reports of acute hepatitis C in young persons in the United States have increased. We examined data from national surveillance and supplemental case follow-up at selected jurisdictions to describe the US epidemiology of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among young persons (aged ≤30 years).

Methods: We examined trends in incidence of acute hepatitis C among young persons reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during 2006-2012 by state, county, and urbanicity. Sociodemographic and behavioral characteristics of HCV-infected young persons newly reported from 2011 to 2012 were analyzed from case interviews and provider follow-up at 6 jurisdictions.

Results: From 2006 to 2012, reported incidence of acute hepatitis C increased significantly in young persons-13% annually in nonurban counties (P = .003) vs 5% annually in urban counties (P = .028). Thirty (88%) of 34 reporting states observed higher incidence in 2012 than 2006, most noticeably in nonurban counties east of the Mississippi River. Of 1202 newly reported HCV-infected young persons, 52% were female and 85% were white. In 635 interviews, 75% of respondents reported injection drug use. Of respondents reporting drug use, 75% had abused prescription opioids, with first use on average 2.0 years before heroin.

Conclusions: These data indicate an emerging US epidemic of HCV infection among young nonurban persons of predominantly white race. Reported incidence was higher in 2012 than 2006 in at least 30 states, with largest increases in nonurban counties east of the Mississippi River. Prescription opioid abuse at an early age was commonly reported and should be a focus for medical and public health intervention.

Keywords: analgesics; hepatitis C; incidence; opioid; young adult.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Users*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Geography, Medical
  • Hepacivirus*
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis C / history
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult