Hepatitis C in France: A national survey in the departments of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases

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Infection with Hepatitis C virus is a significant public health problem that has important clinical and financial consequences. Understanding of the epidemiology of HCV is needed to help define future therapeutic and preventive strategies. So far, the importance and characteristics of the epidemics have been best appreciated in specialist units dealing with liver disease. The purpose of our study was to survey the number and characteristics of hepatitis C antibody positive patients in Departments of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases. We conducted a multicentre national prospective analysis of all positive HCV-antibody patients, either inpatient or outpatient, reported over a period of one month across France. Two thousand and two cases were identified. Epidemiological clinical and therapeutic characteristics are described. Risk factors were identified in 86%. For 10% of the patients, hepatitis C seropositivity was discovered during the period of survey. At the time of first diagnosis, 47% of patients presented with no clinical or biological abnormality. Coinfection with HIV was frequent (59%). Only 20.3% of the patients had received or were receiving a treatment with interferon. Within the limits of the methodology used, this study shows that Hepatitis C infection is a substantial clinical problem in French Departments of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases. Our findings may help the public health authorities in better appreciating the impact of hepatitis C and making policy decisions.

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