Laboratory surveillance of hepatitis C virus infection in England and Wales: 1992 to 1996

Commun Dis Public Health. 1998 Jun;1(2):89-94.


Screening assay for antibody to hepatitis C virus (HCV) became available late in 1990 and their use has subsequently become widespread. Laboratories in England and Wales reported 5232 confirmed HCV infections to the PHLS Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (CDSC) between 1992 and 1996. Fifty-seven per cent (2976) of reports included risk factor information, 80% of which (2382) identified injecting drug use as the main route of transmission. Thirty-one per cent of reports (1640) included clinical information: 41% (665) were asymptomatic, 57% (938) had symptoms, signs, or biochemical abnormalities of hepatic origin, and 2.2% (37) had non-hepatic conditions. To enhance these data two additional surveys have been undertaken to collect data on all anti-HCV tests performed in public health laboratories. In 1993, a retrospective survey of people tested between 1990 and 1993 revealed that the prevalence of antibody was highest (222/331 [67%]) among injecting drug users and recipients of blood or blood products (189/548 [34%]) and lower among other groups. In a prospective survey of HCV tests performed in transfusion recipients in early 1995, the prevalence of antibody was higher in those transfused before 1985 (11/418 [2.6%]) than in those transfused after 1985 (14/1441 [1.0%]). Reports of confirmed infections are a useful method of monitoring hepatitis C infection but additional data on testing are needed to interpret trends overall and in specific risk groups.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Hepatitis C / diagnosis
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Wales / epidemiology