Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are urging health care providers to assess all pregnant women for risk factors associated with hepatitis C and test those who may be at risk and testing children born to mothers living with hepatitis C after data revealed that the rate of women of childbearing age testing positive for hepatitis C increased by 22% recently.
CDC data show that the rate increased by 22% across the United States between 2011 and 2014 (from 139 to 169 per 100,000 WCBA), Over the same time period, the national rate of infants born to women living with hepatitis C increased by 68% (from 0.19% to 0.32%). About 6% of these babies are infected with the virus during pregnancy or childbirth, and that risk doubles if a woman is co-infected with HIV or has high levels of hepatitis C virus in her body. No curative treatment has yet been determined safe for use by pregnant women or infants.
To evaluate the growing problem of hepatitis C infection among women of childbearing age (15 to 44 years old), as well as the potential for hepatitis C transmission between mother and child, researchers examined trends found in data from a nationwide commercial laboratory and in birth certificate data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Results appear in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
In addition to observing trends across the nation, researchers also examined state-specific data in Kentucky, the state with the highest incidence of new hepatitis C infections according to previously released surveillance data. Between 2011 and 2014, the rate of hepatitis C detection among women of childbearing age more than tripled (from 275 to 862 per 100,000 WCBA) and the rate of infants born to women living with diagnosed hepatitis C increased 124% (from 0.71% to 1.59%) in the state.
“The burden of new hepatitis C infections has shifted to a younger generation and is threatening to harm their children as well,” John Ward, MD, director of CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis said in a prepared statement about the findings. “We need to scale up efforts to prevent infection. Research is urgently needed to better understand whether the life-saving medicines that can cure hepatitis C are safe for pregnant women or could prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus.”
1. Koneru A, Nelson N, Hariri S, et al. Increased Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Detection in Women of Childbearing Age and Potential Risk for Vertical Transmission — United States and Kentucky, 2011–2014. MMWR. 2016; 65(28);705–710.