By Molly Walker; Staff Writer, MedPage Today 7/22/16
The birth rate among women with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is increasing nationally, though the problem is particularly prevalent in Kentucky, CDC researchers reported.
Nationally, the number of infants born to women testing positive for HCV rose 68% — from 0.19% (one in 536) to 0.32% (one in 308). But Kentucky experienced a 124% increase in that same time period, reported Alaya Koneru, MPH, and colleagues.
Writing in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the authors found similar patterns between the entire U.S. and Kentucky when examining HCV detection rates among women and children. They examined birth certificates as well as testing data from Quest Diagnostics.
Among women of child-bearing age, detection of HCV increased 22% nationally, while skyrocketing 213% in Kentucky. Testing among children ages two years of age and older was up 14% in the U.S., but 151% in Kentucky during the same time period.
There were 777 pregnant women with HCV in Kentucky from 2011-2014, most of whom were white (84%) and from ages 20-29 years (68%). Over a third of these women also reported past or current injection drug use.
Overall, 5.8% (95% CI 4.2%-7.8%) of mothers with HCV transmit the disease to their infants in the U.S., though that number almost doubles in women who are co-infected with HIV or women with high viral loads of HCV.
Because there is no way to prevent vertical transmission, the authors emphasized testing for the disease in persons (including pregnant women) with prior history of injection drug use and testing children born to HCV-infected women.
“These findings highlight the importance of providing primary prevention services and following current recommendations to identify persons at risk for HCV infection,” they wrote. “Doing so among pregnant women would improve early identification of HCV-infected infants and linkage of the mother and infant to care and treatment.”