Q. Hepatitis C is sometimes perceived as predominantly a disease of older people. How is that changing?
Dr Espinosa: "Traditionally, we have seen a high prevalence in the baby boomer population due to many transmissions that probably happened between the 1960s and 1980s, before the hepatitis C virus was identified. Now, the new epidemic of IV drug use is driving the changes in the epidemiology for hepatitis C. Many of these are young people, are likely to be white and live in rural areas.
"Because of the drug use epidemic, we also have more women of childbearing age and pregnant women who are infected with HCV that could transmit the infection to their babies. We see young teenagers who may be affected because of the same reason, and I also know from working with our adult gastroenterologists that there have been so many young patients that are already having symptoms of chronic disease, and they don’t have risk factors—they don't do drugs, but they may have been infected perinatally from their mothers, or maybe some household member had the infection, and they have been undiagnosed for many years, increasing the chances of worse liver disease by the time they seek medical attention.
" ... there have been so many young patients that are already having symptoms of chronic disease, and they don’t have risk factors—they don't do drugs, but they may have been infected perinatally from their mothers ..."
"We are learning more and more about the prevalence of HCV in young people now that we are increasing the screening here in Kentucky, which makes me wonder how many more states who are not doing the screening maybe have the same problem."