Hepatitis C is a serious but common infection that can affect individuals of all ages and genders. Hepatitis C virus or HCV attacks the liver and can lead to long-term health problems, including liver cirrhosis, failure, or cancer.
Overall, the number of cases of hepatitis C infections is increasing. However, the rates differ by state, age group, biological sex, and a person’s race or ethnicity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report the incidence of hepatitis C virus as new cases per 100,000 people annually.
Keep reading to learn more about hepatitis C prevalence, including information about which populations are most at risk and statistics for the United States.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
Hepatitis C infection rates differ by geography, age group, biological sex, and ethnicity.
In 2019, the
Seven states, including Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and California, had the highest number of reported acute cases and accounted for over 50% of the national burden of acute hepatitis C that year.
Rates of reported acute hepatitis C have increased across all age groups 20 years and older since 2010.
The 20–29 years age group in
Race and ethnicity
In 2019, acute hepatitis C infection rates ranged from
- Black, non-Hispanic: 0.7 cases per 100,000 population
- White, non-Hispanic: 1.4 cases per 100,000 population
- Hispanic: 0.6 cases per 100,000 population
People who inject drugs
People who inject drugs are at high risk of acquiring hepatitis C. The number of new cases in this group of people among those aged 18–40 years has shown to increase steadily since 2013. The latest figures from
As a result, the government is attempting to reduce these rates by 2025. However, a reduction of 39.3% from the 2019 figures is necessary to meet the 2025 goal of 1.7 cases per 100,000 population.
The majority — 22 — of these outbreaks occurred in the hemodialysis setting, resulting in 104 cases of hepatitis C infection. Other outbreaks — 16 — occurred in outpatient and long-term care facilities, resulting in 134 cases of hepatitis C infection.
The remaining four outbreaks occurred due to drug diversion or misuse of prescription drugs issued to people with hepatitis C, which resulted in 90 cases.
The hepatitis C virus spreads through blood-to-blood contact. It
“Baby boomers,” which refers to individuals born between 1945–1965, are 5 times more likely to have hepatitis C than others. An overwhelming majority — 75% — of adults living with hepatitis C were born during these two decades.
Doctors do not fully understand the reason for this high rate. However, it could be due to receiving infected blood products before the widespread screening began in 1992 or engaging in behaviors that may have harmful outcomes.
People can carry the virus for years before symptoms appear. Therefore it can be challenging for doctors to determine how or when the individual contracted the virus.
Hepatitis C is the
Experts estimate that around 2.4 million people live with the condition, but the actual number could be as high as 4.7 million. More than half of these individuals do not have symptoms, and they do not realize they have the infection.
The hepatitis C virus can cause acute or chronic infection. In acute hepatitis C, the infection is short term, with symptoms lasting 6 months or less. In some cases, an individual can clear the infection and is no longer positive.
That said, around 50–80% of people with acute hepatitis C go on to develop chronic infection. This form of hepatitis is a long lasting infection that the body cannot fight off. As a result, chronic hepatitis C can cause chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer without appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
In the same year, they also recorded a total of 137,713 new chronic hepatitis C cases, with a 63.1% majority being male. Most cases were among people in the age groups 20–39 and 50–69 years, with baby boomers accounting for 36.3% of new cases.
According to the latest
The following table shows the number of reported cases of acute hepatitis C per 100,000 people for U.S. states in 2019 that have a high prevalence of this condition.
|Number of reported cases
|Incidence rate (per 100,000 population)
Except for Kentucky, the infection rates in the above states are higher than in the previous reported year.
In addition, there may be wide fluctuations in annual incidence rates due to resource limitations and the actual number of reported cases in certain states or jurisdictions.
Hepatitis B is 5–10 times more infectious than hepatitis C.
Various strains of the hepatitis virus exist, but there are
Hepatitis B and C can lead to chronic disease and are common causes of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
Hepatitis C is a serious infection that can lead to liver failure and liver cancer. People can acquire it from blood-to-blood contact with someone who has the infection. Therefore, people most at risk are those who inject drugs.
Rates differ by state, biological sex, age, and race or ethnicity. In general, rates of infection are increasing across all groups and locations.