Previously the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended targeted hepatitis C virus (HCV) screening for adults born between 1945 and 1965 and individuals with HCV risk factors. In April 2020, the CDC updated their recommendations to now include all individuals 18 years of age and older in settings with HCV prevalence > 0.1%. Few emergency departments (EDs) currently employ this nontargeted screening approach.
We examined how a shift from targeted to nontargeted screening might affect HCV case identification. We hypothesized that nontargeted screening could improve HCV case identification in our ED.
Retrospective review of prospectively collected nontargeted screening data from June 6, 2018 to June 5, 2019 in a large urban academic ED. Patients 18 years of age and older, triaged to the adult or pediatric ED and able to provide consent for HCV testing, were eligible for study inclusion.
There were 83,864 ED visits and 40,282 unique patients deemed eligible for HCV testing. Testing occurred in 10,630 (26.4%) patients, of which 638 (6%) had positive HCV antibody (Ab+) tests and 214 (2%) had a positive viral load (VL+). Birth cohort-targeted screening would have identified 48% of the patients with Ab+ tests and 47% of those who were VL+. Risk-based targeted screening would increase the number of Ab+ patients to 67% and VL+ to 72%.
Nontargeted ED-based HCV screening can identify a large number of patients with HCV infection. A shift from targeted to nontargeted screening may result in fewer missed infections but requires further study.
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