Hepatitis C virus infection in South Australian prisoners: seroprevalence, seroconversion, and risk factors.

International journal of infectious diseases : IJID : official publication of the International Society for Infectious Diseases

PubMedID: 18790659

Miller ER, Bi P, Ryan P. Hepatitis C virus infection in South Australian prisoners: seroprevalence, seroconversion, and risk factors. Int J Infect Dis. 2009;13(2):201-8.
OBJECTIVES
To determine entry antibody seroprevalence and seroconversion to hepatitis C virus (HCV) and associated risk factors in newly incarcerated prisoners.

METHODS
Males and females entering South Australian prisons completed risk factor surveys and were offered HCV-antibody testing. Participants completed additional surveys and, if HCV-negative at last test, underwent further antibody tests at 3-monthly intervals for up to 15 months. Data were analyzed using univariate and multivariate techniques.

RESULTS
HCV seroprevalence among 662 prison entrants was estimated at 42%. Previous injecting history was highly prevalent at entry (64%) and both community and prison injecting independently predicted entry HCV status. Tattooing was not an important risk factor. While community exposure could not be ruled out, three seroconversions were noted in 148 initially HCV-seronegative individuals occurring in a median 121 days--4.6 per 100 person-years. Prison injecting was infrequently reported, but HCV-seropositive participants were significantly more likely to commence IDU in prison than seronegative participants (p=0.035).

CONCLUSIONS
Entry HCV seroprevalence in South Australian prisoners is extremely high and may have contributed to a 'ceiling effect', minimizing the observable seroconversion rate. Greater frequency of injecting among those already infected with HCV represents a significant threat to other prisoners and prison staff.