Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV is the most common blood-borne virus in Iowa and the United States. There are over 18,000 Iowans who have been diagnosed with chronic HCV, and it is estimated that around half of people with hepatitis C are undiagnosed. HCV can cause serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death.

HCV is usually transmitted when blood from a person living with HCV enters the body of someone who does not have HCV. Today, most people get HCV by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Before 1992, when widespread screening of the blood supply began in the United States, hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.

The hepatitis C virus is reportable to the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services. The information that HHS gathers on HCV helps us gain a better understanding of how the virus affects populations in our state, as well as to develop strategies to prevent transmission and diagnose and treat people living with HCV.

Tracking hepatitis C involves collecting confirmed tests results from laboratories to detect the virus. The test results are entered into the Iowa Disease Surveillance System (IDSS), the state of Iowa’s electronic database that collects, tracks and manages reportable infectious diseases.

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Hepatitis C Data Visualization

View data visualization

To select multiple counties click on the first county and then while pressing the control key, click on the other counties you wish to include in the selection. Clicking on a blank area outside the map resets the map to its initial state where all counties are selected.

Hepatitis C data are displayed in two ways: 

  • Case counts show the number of people diagnosed with hepatitis C virus per county and statewide. Because hepatitis C is a curable infection, it is possible for someone to get the virus, be cured, and then get the virus again. These data only show people who have been diagnosed, so re-infection is not represented.
  • Rate per 100,000 population shows the number of cases divided by the population and multiplied by 100,000. Displaying rates gives one an understanding of disease distribution relative to the population of a given area (e.g., county). This often shows a different picture than case counts.

Although county A may have fewer cases than county B, if county A's population is smaller, they have an overall higher disease burden relative to their county's population. Displaying data in this way can show how these infections affect counties with smaller populations. If a county has a case count of 15 or fewer, the rate per 100,000 is not calculated or displayed.

Calculating rates based on small case counts can be misleading because changes in case counts by just one or two cases can drastically change the rate. It may make it falsely appear as though the disease burden in a particular county is high.

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Hepatitis C Diagnosis & Risk

If the hepatitis C virus is left undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to serious health problems, including liver cancer and cirrhosis (liver disease). However, hepatitis C is curable with medication, so Iowans must get tested and diagnosed.

It is common for someone with hepatitis C virus to have no obvious signs or symptoms (asymptomatic). This means that someone can have HCV and not know it, leading them to unknowingly infect and put others at risk for long-term health problems. The only way to know whether someone has HCV is to be tested.

People can get HCV during activities such as:

  • Sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs
  • Receiving needle sticks in health care settings
  • Being born to a mother who has HCV
  • Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another person’s blood, such as “works” or other drug paraphernalia, unsterilized tattoo equipment, razors, or toothbrushes
  • Having sexual contact with a person who has HCV. The Iowa Department of Public Health recommends that at-risk populations ask their primary healthcare provider for a simple blood test to be screened for HCV

The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services recommends that at-risk populations ask their primary healthcare provider for a simple blood test to be screened for HCV.

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About Hepatitis C Data

About Hepatitis C Data

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