Division of Viral Hepatitis, National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.
The impact of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection on health and medical care in the United States is a major problem for infectious disease physicians. Although the incidence of HCV infection has declined markedly in the past 2 decades, chronic infection in 3 million or more residents now accounts for more disease and death in the United States than does human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/AIDS. Current trends in the epidemiology of HCV infection include an apparent increase in young, often suburban heroin injection drug users who initiate use with oral prescription opioid drugs; infections in nonhospital healthcare (clinic) settings; and sexual transmission among HIV-infected persons. Infectious disease physicians will increasingly have the responsibility of diagnosing and treating HCV patients. An understanding of how these patients were infected is important for determining whom to screen and treat.