Missing “C”

Ascertainment rates for pediatric hepatitis C virus (HCV) are as bad as in adults with HCV (J Pediatr 2012; 161: 915-21).

As noted in previous blog entries, it has been recommended by the CDC that adults born between 1945-65 undergo a one time screening for HCV due to the high frequency of undetected cases along with improvements in therapy.  The same rationale may apply to children in the near future as some of these therapies are shown to be safe and effective in the pediatric population.

In the meanwhile, it is apparent that most pediatric HCV cases remain undetected.  In the aforementioned study, the investigators examined statewide data from Florida and data from health departments across the United States.  This was compared with data from NHANES III which reported HCV prevalence of 0.2% in children 6-12 years old and 0.4% of 13-18 year olds.  The absolute prevalence may be higher as NHANES did not capture some populations at high risk, like homeless or incarcerated youth.

Results:

  • From 2000-2009, only 2007 children were identified as HCV-antibody positive in Florida.  During this period, it is estimated that this represents about 12% of the expected number of cases (n=12155).
  • In Dade county which has 13 pediatric gastroenterologists, 100% responded to an online questionnaire.  They reported caring for 31 cases of HCV in 2009 and another 55 in the preceding 5 years.  This indicates that 1.6% of the expected number of HCV-antibody-positive children in this region received care in 2009 and 2.8% over previous 5 years.
  • Nationwide, only two states (VT, MA) identified more than 20% of expected cases.

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