Background: Parenteral transmission is the major route for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. However, in western countries, 40% of patients with chronic hepatitis C have no apparent risk factor of HCV infection. This study was designed to investigate the possible risk factors of HCV transmission in chronic hepatitis C patients in Taiwan.
Methods: One hundred and sixty-one consecutive patients with chronic hepatitis C and 161 age- and sex-matched healthy subjects were enrolled. Risk factors, including blood transfusion, injection with nondisposable needles, education status, surgery, dental procedure, tattooing, ear-piercing, sexual behavior and alcoholism, were obtained in every patient through questionnairing and interviewing.
Results: Patients with chronic hepatitis C, compared with healthy controls, had significantly higher rates of previous history of blood transfusion, frequent nondisposable needle injections, and lower education status (43.5% vs. 10.6%, 19.9% vs. 6.2%, 42.2% vs. 23.0%, respectively, all p < 0.05). Univariate logistic regression analysis showed blood transfusion, frequent nondisposable needle injections and low education as significant risk factors of HCV infection (all p < 0.05). Multivariate analysis again revealed them all to be independent significant risk factors associated with HCV infection in chronic hepatitis C patients.
Conclusions: Parenteral transmission of HCV via transfusion and frequent nondisposable needle injections were the main routes of contracting HCV infection in patients with chronic hepatitis C in Taiwan. Also, people with low education ran the higher risk of transmission by HCV. Meticulous screening of the transfused blood for HCV, usage of disposable needles, and mass public education are important in our efforts to decrease chronic HCV infection in Taiwan.