June 11, 2013

Hep C knowledge gap endangering children

Gastroenterology Update 11 JUNE 2013

Hugo Wilcken

People at high risk of hepatitis C infection have a poor knowledge of the disease which is putting their children in danger, an Australian survey has found.

Less than half of those attending NSW methadone clinics admitted to being positive for the hepatitis C virus (HCV), a survey of 330 people found, although actual exposure rates in high-risk populations are generally double that.

Around half said their children had been tested for HCV but almost all believed their children’s status was negative, the authors from the University of Sydney said.

This clearly reflected a lack of understanding of the risk of vertical transmission from mother to child, as well as poor compliance with current guidelines which recommend the children of all high-risk people be tested, the authors said.

But when offered free testing for themselves and their children, only one participant accepted.

Writing in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health the authors said children of high-risk populations “remain an unrecognised cohort of HCV carriers and are particularly at risk of spreading and developing the infection in later life”.

The findings suggested “a striking non-adherence to best practice, a lack of awareness of HCV...and that many children in this high-risk population are lost to follow-up,” the authors said.

They underlined the need to screen children born to HCVpositive mothers and also to screen high-risk populations at least every one to two years.

The authors recommended active case monitoring through a HCV registry for high-risk people and their children, as well as further initiatives to raise awareness in the general population.

Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 2013; online

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