To assess the prevalence and correlates of hepatitis C virus infection in a sample of detained adolescents.
Cross-sectional prevalence study with 10- to 18-year-old adolescents who were consecutively admitted to a juvenile detention center in San Antonio, Tex.
Main Outcome Measures
The prevalence of hepatitis C virus infection and associated risk factors.
Of the 1002 participants, 75% were Hispanic and the mean age was 15 years. Twenty adolescents had laboratory data consistent with hepatitis C virus infection, giving an overall prevalence of 2.0% (95% confidence interval, 1.2-3.1). All adolescents infected with hepatitis C virus were Hispanic (13 boys and 7 girls). Although a high proportion of the participants reported having had intranasal drug use (55.6%), tattooing (50.5%), or body piercing (25.3%), the only factor significantly associated with hepatitis C virus infection was having a history of injection drug use. Injection drug use was reported by 5.3% of the participants but by 95% (19/20) of those infected with the hepatitis C virus.
This study indicates that injection drug use was linked with the majority of hepatitis C virus infections in this population of detained adolescents, similar to findings in adults. These adolescents reported a high frequency of other behaviors that could potentially pose a risk for contracting bloodborne infections. Effective prevention and awareness programs in a detention setting need to be comprehensive and include screening, hepatitis A and B immunizations, and risk-reduction counseling.