MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report 2016 07 2265(28) 705-10 doi 10.15585/mmwr.mm6528a2
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a leading cause of liver-related morbidity and mortality (1). Transmission of HCV is primarily via parenteral blood exposure, and HCV can be transmitted vertically from mother to child. Vertical transmission occurs in 5.8% (95% confidence interval = 4.2%-7.8%) of infants born to women who are infected only with HCV and in up to twice as many infants born to women who are also infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (2) or who have high HCV viral loads (3,4); there is currently no recommended intervention to prevent transmission of infection from mother to child (3). Increased reported incidence of HCV infection among persons aged ≤30 years (5,6) with similar increases among women and men in this age group (6), raises concern about increases in the number of pregnant women with HCV infection, and in the number of infants who could be exposed to HCV at birth. Data from one large commercial laboratory and birth certificate data were used to investigate trends in HCV detection among women of childbearing age,* HCV testing among children aged ≤2 years, and the proportions of infants born to HCV-infected women nationally and in Kentucky, the state with the highest incidence of acute HCV infection during 2011-2014 (6). During 2011-2014, commercial laboratory data indicated that national rates of HCV detection (antibody or RNA positivity(†)) among women of childbearing age increased 22%, and HCV testing (antibody or RNA) among children aged ≤2 years increased 14%; birth certificate data indicated that the proportion of infants born to HCV-infected mothers increased 68%, from 0.19% to 0.32%. During the same time in Kentucky, the HCV detection rate among women of childbearing age increased >200%, HCV testing among children aged ≤2 years increased 151%, and the proportion of infants born to HCV-infected women increased 124%, from 0.71% to 1.59%. Increases in the rate of HCV detection among women of childbearing age suggest a potential risk for vertical transmission of HCV. These findings highlight the importance of following current CDC recommendations to identify, counsel, and test persons at risk for HCV infection (1,7), including pregnant women, as well as consider developing public health policies for routine HCV testing of pregnant women, and expanding current policies for testing and monitoring children born to HCV-infected women. Expansion of HCV reporting and surveillance requirements will enhance case identification and prevention strategies.