Hepatitis B and C Among Veterans on a Psychiatric Ward

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Hepatitis B and C are public health problems. Psychiatric patients may be at risk of hepatitis B and C exposure due to lifestyle and inadequate health care. We aimed to determine prevalence of hepatitis B and C virus exposure and associated risk factors in acutely hospitalized psychiatric veterans. A total of 234 individuals consecutively admitted to the psychiatric wards at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Hospital were asked to participate. A total of 129 patients consented and were screened for viral hepatitis risk factors, hepatitis B surface antigen, hepatitis B surface and core antibodies, and hepatitis C antibodies. About 31 and 38% of the patients had been exposed to hepatitis B and C viruses, respectively. Several risk factors were associated with exposure. Inpatient psychiatric veterans seem to have increased rates of hepatitis B and C exposure. This highlights the need for prevention of risk behavior in this vulnerable population.

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