Several studies suggest veterans have a higher prevalence of hepatitis C virus infection than nonveterans, possibly because of military exposures.
Dr Dominitz and colleagues from Seattle, Washington undertook a study in order to estimate the prevalence of anti-hepatitis C antibody and evaluate factors associated with infection among users of Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.
The researchers collected 1,288 completed surveys out of 3,863 that were given to randomly selected veterans.
Veterans had also undergone home-based phlebotomy for serological testing.
The research team used administrative and clinical data to correct the prevalence estimate for nonparticipation.
The researchers found that the prevalence of anti-hepatitis C antibody among serology participants was 4%.
|At least 1 traditional risk factor (transfusion or intravenous drug use) was reported by 30% of all subjects|
The research team noted that the estimated prevalence in the population of Veterans Affairs medical center users was 5% after correction for sociodemographic and clinical differences between participants and nonparticipants.
The researchers found that significant predictors of seropositivity included demographic factors, period of military service (e.g., Vietnam era), prior diagnoses, health care use, and lifestyle factors.
At least 1 traditional risk factor (transfusion or intravenous drug use) was reported by 30% of all subjects.
The investigators found that among those testing positive for hepatitis C antibody, 78% either had a transfusion or had used injection drugs.
When the team had adjusted for injection drug use and nonparticipation, they found that seropositivity was associated with tattoos and incarceration.
Military-related exposures were not found to be associated with infection in the adjusted analysis.
Dr Dominitz concluded, "The prevalence of hepatitis C in these subjects exceeds the estimate from the general US population by more than 2-fold, likely reflecting more exposure to traditional risk factors among these veterans."