Inadequate sterilization and reuse of medical equipment likely contributed to hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission in the former Soviet Union (FSU). Although New York leads the nation in the number of immigrants from the FSU, the epidemiology of HCV infection has not been evaluated in this population. The aims of this study were to determine the prevalence of and risk factors for HCV infection among immigrants from the FSU in the New York metropolitan area.
We conducted a 3-day community-based HCV screening program in the two boroughs of the New York metropolitan area with the highest density of FSU immigrants (Brooklyn and Queens). Russian cable television was used to invite subjects to come in for free HCV testing. In the last 2 days of screening, each person also completed an HCV risk factor questionnaire.
The overall prevalence of HCV seropositivity among the 283 subjects was 28.3% (95% confidence interval [CI] 23.0–33.5%). The prevalence of HCV infection was similar in men and women (30.3%vs 26.5%, P= 0.48) and was highest in subjects ≥70 yr old (35.0%). HCV seropositivity was 11.1% in immigrants from Russia, 29.0% from Uzbekistan, 31.0% from the Ukraine, and 36.8% from other regions. Intramuscular injections (odds ratio 9.1, 95% CI 2.0–42.4) and blood transfusions (odds ratio 3.2, 95% CI 1.2–9.0) were the only variables that were significantly associated with HCV infection in the multivariable analysis.
In this community-based screening program we found a high prevalence of HCV infection among immigrants from the FSU, and these infections likely resulted from inadequately sterilized medical equipment and blood transfusions. Universal HCV testing should be strongly considered for all FSU immigrants.