Due to the opioid epidemic, the rate of hepatitis C virus infection among pregnant women increased 60 percent between 2006 and 2014, according to a study, yet only 30 percent of infants exposed to the virus were screened for infection.
The study, "Hepatitis C Virus Screening Among Children Exposed During Pregnancy," will be published in the June 2018 issue of Pediatrics. Researchers analyzed a database of 87,924 pregnant women who delivered babies at Pittsburgh University Medical Center hospital and identified 1,043 (1.2%) as having a hepatitis C virus infection. The women infected with the virus were more likely to be younger than 30; white; have Medicaid; have opiate use disorder; and have other substance use than uninfected women. Of the 1,043 infants that delivered, 363 were receiving well-child care at the same hospital system at 1 year of age. Only 96 of the 363 infants (30%) were screened for hepatitis C virus. Without appropriate screening, children at risk for perinatal transmission may remain undiagnosed until they become symptomatic. Hepatitis C infection can lead to irreversible liver disease.
The study authors recommend consideration of a universal hepatitis C screening during pregnancy, especially in high prevalence areas.
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