Objective Hepatitis B and C represent common causes of severe liver disease, such as cirrhosis, liver failure, and hepatocellular carcinoma, and represent a significant national public health concern. The subpopulation of psychiatric patients may be at greater risk of contracting hepatitis B and C due to their lifestyle and comparative lack of access to health care. The goal of this work is to determine the prevalence of hepatitis B and C and to assess psychiatric diagnoses and behavioral risk factors to elucidate their association with hepatitis B and C seropositivity in consecutively hospitalized veterans with psychiatric disorders so as to categorize groups at risk of infection.
Method Voluntary patients acutely hospitalized at the West LA VA were approached to participate in this study. Those consenting were screened for hepatitis risk factors, hepatitis B antibody and antigen, and hepatitis C antibodies.
Results 143 hospitalized patients agreed to participate, with 129 providing complete blood work. Thirty-eight percent and 31% of these tested positive for hepatitis C and B, respectively. The National Center for Infectious Diseases estimates 1.8% and 5.0% of the general population to be exposed to hepatitis C virus and hepatitis B virus, respectively. Risk factors significantly associated with infection were snorting drugs, being in jail, IV drug use, close contact with viral hepatitis patients, tattoos, being struck with bloody objects, sex with IV drug users, and health care employment.
Conclusion These preliminary findings suggest an alarming rate of hepatitis B and C infection within a psychiatric inpatient population. These findings also highlight the indispensability of attention to the risk factors for these infections and may serve as a start to the elaboration of appropriate preventive measures for this vulnerable population.
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