Hepatitis C Testing and Patient Characteristics in Washington State's Prisons Between 2012 and 2016

Am J Prev Med. 2019 Jan;56(1):8-16. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2018.08.016. Epub 2018 Nov 19.


Introduction: There is no widely accepted testing approach for hepatitis C virus infection in correctional settings, and many U.S. prisons do not provide routine testing. The aim of this study was to determine the most effective hepatitis C virus testing strategy in one U.S. state prison and describe the population with reactive testing.

Methods: A retrospective analysis was performed using individuals entering the Washington State prison system, which routinely offers hepatitis C virus testing, to compare routine opt-out with current recommendations for risk-based and one-time testing for individuals born between 1945 and 1965. Additionally, liver fibrosis stage was characterized using aspartate aminotransferase to platelet ratio index and Fibrosis-4 index. Analyses were conducted in 2017.

Results: Between 2012 and 2016, a total of 24,567 (83%) individuals were tested for the hepatitis C virus antibody and 4,921 (20%) were reactive (test was positive). There were 2,403 (49%) that had hepatitis C virus RNA testing, with 1,727 (72%) showing chronic infection. Reactive antibody was more prevalent in individuals born between 1945 and 1965 compared with other years (44% vs 17%); however, most cases (72%) were outside of this cohort. Up to 35% of positive reactive tests would be missed with testing targeted by birth cohort and risk behavior. Of chronically infected individuals, 23% had at least moderate liver fibrosis.

Conclusions: Targeted testing in the Washington State prison system missed a substantial proportion of hepatitis C virus cases; of those with reactive testing, a sizeable proportion of people had at least moderate liver disease, placing them at risk for complications. Routine testing at entry should be considered by U.S. state prisons.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02043626.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hepacivirus / isolation & purification
  • Hepatitis C / diagnosis*
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies / blood
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / diagnosis*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prisons*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Washington


  • Hepatitis C Antibodies

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02043626