HealthDay News — Emergency department opt-out universal hepatitis C virus (HCV) screening can identify a large number of unrecognized HCV infections, including among those born after 1965, according to research published in the May 15 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

James W. Galbraith, M.D., from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, and colleagues adopted opt-out universal hepatitis C screening for all adult patients at four emergency departments during 2015 to 2016.

The researchers found that the overall prevalence of positive results for HCV antibody (anti-HCV) was 9.2 percent among the 14,252 adult patients. The prevalence of positive results for anti-HCV was higher for persons in the cohort born in 1945 to 1965 than in the cohort born after 1965 (13.9 versus 6.7 percent); 47.8 percent of total cases reactive to anti-HCV were in the younger cohort. The prevalence of positive results for anti-HCV among the cohort born in 1945 to 1965 was significantly higher among non-Hispanic blacks than among whites (16.0 versus 12.2 percent). Among persons born after 1965, the overall prevalence of positive results for anti-HCV was higher among whites than blacks (15.3 versus 3.2 percent).

“Emergency department-based opt-out, universal, HCV screening might play an important role in surveillance and combat of interrelated epidemics of opioid overdose and bloodborne viral infections through harm-reduction interventions and navigation to HCV treatment,” the authors write.

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Several authors disclosed financial ties to Gilead Sciences.

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