Health Care-Related Exposure Linked to HCV, HBV Infection in Older Adults

Researcher Joseph Perz reported that older patients who received healthcare had increased risk of becoming infected with hepatitis C or hepatitis B. Patients' behavioral risks -- being in jail, using "non-injected illicit drugs," or having sex with hepatitis-infected partners or with multiple partners -- had no relation to this increased risk. The study included 48 hepatitis-infected patients ages 55 and older who showed hepatitis symptoms within six months of exposure to healthcare settings.

Most of the hepatitis-infected patients (94 percent) reported exposure to healthcare within six months of showing symptoms of hepatitis C or B. The hepatitis-infected patients in the study had experienced surgery, blood transfusion, hemodialysis, healthcare-related injections, emergency department visits, or overnight hospitalization. Hemodialysis and injections, in particular, were associated with increased risk of hepatitis infection. Study results were compared to a matched control group of 159 people; 89 percent of the control group had contact with healthcare during the same time period.

Perz recommended better public health surveillance and "stronger oversight" of infection control in healthcare settings to reduce the risk to patients.

The full report, "Case-control Study of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C in Older Adults: Do Healthcare Exposures Contribute to Burden of New Infections?" was published online in the journal Hepatology (2012; DOI: 10.1002/hep.25688).