Hepatitis B and C infections in U.S. incarcerated populations: Prevalence and related mortality

Amy Jo Harzke, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Published reports have consistently indicated high prevalence of serologic markers for hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) infection in U.S. incarcerated populations. Quantifying the current and projected burden of HBV and HCV infection and hepatitis-related sequelae in correctional healthcare systems with even modest precision remains elusive, however, because the prevalence and sequelae of HBV and HCV in U.S. incarcerated populations are not well-studied. This dissertation contributes to the assessment of the burden of HBV and HCV infections in U.S. incarcerated populations by addressing some of the deficiencies and gaps in previous research. Objectives of the three dissertation studies were: (1) To investigate selected study-level factors as potential sources of heterogeneity in published HBV seroprevalence estimates in U.S. adult incarcerated populations (1975-2005), using meta-regression techniques; (2) To quantify the potential influence of suboptimal sensitivity of screening tests for antibodies to hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) on previously reported anti-HCV prevalence estimates in U.S. incarcerated populations (1990-2005), by comparing these estimates to error-adjusted anti-HCV prevalence estimates in these populations; (3) To estimate death rates due to HBV, HCV, chronic liver disease (CLD/cirrhosis), and liver cancer from 1984 through 2003 in male prisoners in custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and to quantify the proportion of CLD/cirrhosis and liver cancer prisoner deaths attributable to HBV and/or HCV. Results were as follows. Although meta-regression analyses were limited by the small body of literature, mean population age and serum collection year appeared to be sources of heterogeneity, respectively, in prevalence estimates of antibodies to HBV antigen (HBsAg+) and any positive HBV marker. Other population characteristics and study methods could not be ruled out as sources of heterogeneity. Anti-HCV prevalence is likely somewhat higher in male and female U.S. incarcerated populations than previously estimated in studies using anti-HCV screening tests alone without the benefit of repeat or additional testing. Death rates due to HBV, HCV, CLD/cirrhosis, and liver cancer from 1984 through 2003 in TDCJ male prisoners exceeded state and national rates. HCV rates appeared to be increasing and disproportionately affecting Hispanics. HCV was implicated in nearly one-third of liver cancer deaths.

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Recommended Citation

Harzke, Amy Jo, "Hepatitis B and C infections in U.S. incarcerated populations: Prevalence and related mortality" (2007). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3346408.