The study of non-injecting drug users in New York found they had much higher infection rates than the population at large.
Among a group of women drug users in East Harlem, all of whom denied using needles, 26% were found to be infected with HCV.
|Hepatitis C risk not limited to injection drug users
|Substance Use and Misuse |
Overall 17% of non-injecting drug users were infected, compared with 2% of the general population, researchers reported in the journal Substance Use and Misuse.
More than 500 non-injecting drug users were tested and questioned for the research.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Alan Leshner, Director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, said that further research needed to be done to identify other routes of HCV transmission.
He said, "If hepatitis C can be transmitted through the sharing of non-injecting drug paraphernalia, such as straws or pipes, we need to include this information in public health messages targeted to this population."
Researcher Dr Stephanie Tortu, from Tulane University, New York, said, "These studies indicate that the prevalence of HCV among drug users who report that they have never injected is substantially higher than for the general population in the USA and several other countries, and prevalence may vary according to population, gender, age, and drugs used."
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