WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

Hepatitis C infection varies widely among U.S. Hispanics

Hepatitis C infection varies widely among different Hispanic groups in the U.S., according to a study published on Tuesday in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University conducted the study, which was the first of its kind to determine infection rates among different U.S. Hispanic groups. The study found very different infection rates among the groups, which suggested that it was not appropriate to lump all U.S. Hispanics into a single, broad at-risk group.

"Until now, national health surveys that assessed hepatitis C's prevalence among U.S. Hispanics have looked only at Mexican-Americans," Mark Kuniholm, the lead author of the study, said. "As a result, no one knew whether the rates were higher or lower in other Hispanic populations. It turns out that there's a dramatic variation in prevalence, with infection rates ranging from less than one percent in Hispanic men of South American or Cuban background to 11.6 percent in men of Puerto Rican background -- a more than 10-fold difference.

According to the study, the prevalence of hepatitis C infection among males in other U.S. Hispanic groups were 1.9 percent among Mexicans, 1.5 percent among Dominicans, one percent among Central Americans, 0.8 percent among Cubans and 0.4 percent among South Americans. Women with a Puerto Rican background had a 3.9 percent hepatitis C prevalence, the highest among women in U.S. Hispanic groups.

The researchers said it was unclear as to why hepatitis C prevalence was so much higher among men and women of Puerto Rican descent.

"Clearly, our findings strongly support the need for community-based campaigns to increase testing and treatment in the Hispanic population," Kuniholm said. "But in our view, outreach efforts should be redoubled in those communities with large numbers of people of Hispanic background and a high prevalence of the disease."