Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Hepatitis Health Center

Font Size

Hepatitis C Infection Rates Are Stable

Study Suggests Some IV Drug Users Are Shifting to Other Methods of Using Illicit Drugs
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Feb. 14, 2011 -- The incidence of new hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in the U.S. declined by more than 90% between 1990 and 1992 and has remained relatively stable ever since, new figures from the CDC confirm.

Although the reasons for the dramatic drop are not fully understood, researchers attribute much of it to a shift away from needles to other delivery systems by users of illicit drugs and the fact that most IV drug users had become infected by the early 1990s.

Illicit IV drug use is the most common source of new hepatitis C virus infection today, and this has been the case since the CDC first started collecting surveillance data in the early 1980s.

“New IV drug users are still being infected in high numbers, but they represent a very small percentage of the pool of people who are infected,” researcher Miriam J. Alter, PhD, of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, tells WebMD.

Transfusions and Tattoos

Alter and colleagues tracked the national incidence and transmission of new HCV infections between 1982 and 2006 by analyzing data provided by six county health departments.

Among other major findings:

  • There was little evidence that cosmetic practices such as tattooing and body piercing have contributed substantially to HCV infections in the U.S.
  • Approximately 14% of new HCV infections identified during the surveillance period occurred among people who said their only risk factor was having sex with an infected partner or having multiple sex partners.
  • The HCV infection risk from blood transfusions fell to near negligible levels -- about one infection for every 2 million units of transfused blood -- following the introduction of tighter donor screening practices and better tests to detect HCV in donated blood in the early 1990s.

HCV and Baby Boomers

About 3.2 million people in the U.S. are chronically infected with hepatitis C, and about 17,000 new infections occur each year, according to the CDC.

“It is important to remember that most people walking around with HCV today are not current IV drug users or longtime street users,” Alter says. “The chronically infected population is made up largely of people who gave up their risky behaviors a long time in the past.”

Today on WebMD

Hepatitus C virus
Types, symptoms and treatments.
liver illustration
Myths and facts about this essential organ.
woman eating apple
What you need to know.
doctor and patient
What causes it?
Hepatitis C Treatment
Syringes and graph illustration
liver illustration
passport, pills and vaccine
Scientist looking in microscope
Fatty Liver Disease
Digestive Diseases Liver Transplantation
Picture Of The Liver
Image Collection