This is a study of the differences in the risk factors for bring either hepatitis B surface antigen positive [HBsAg(+)] or antibody to hepatitis C virus positive [Anti HCV(+)] in A-Lein, a rural area in southern Taiwan, an area which also has a high hepatoma mortality rate. Three hundred eighty-five patients age ≤ 40 years participated in hepatoma screening at the A-Lein Community Health Center during 1995. Those who were HBsAg(-) and anti-HCV(-) or had coinfection of HBsAg(+) and anti-HCV(+) were excluded, leaving 293 patients: 109 HBsAg(+) and 184 anti-HCV(+). The anti-HCV(+) patients had a lower socioeconomic status (as defined by level of education and type of occupation) and were older than HBsAg(+) patients (P < 0.05). Those with higher alanine aminotransferase levels (ALT) also had a higher anti-HCV(+) to HBsAg(+) odds ratio (OR), and a dose response relationship was found, P < 0.0001. Anti-HCV(+) patients were more likely than HBsAg(+) patients to have a spouse who shared the infection, OR = 5.11; 95% CI, 2.30-11.28. Anti-HCV(+) patients were more likely than HBsAg(+) patients to have had blood transfusions (OR = 2.66; 95% CI, 1.20-5.89), frequent medical injections (OR = 2.64; 95% CI, 1.62-4.31), or injections by non-licensed medical providers (OR = 1.91; 95% CI, 1.18-3.09). Multiple logistic regression analysis showed that the significant factors for anti-HCV(+) patients vs. HBsAg(+) patients are drinking habit (OR = 3.45; 95% CI, 1.02-11.60), age (OR = 6.33; 95% CI, 2.93-13.68), and frequent medical injections (OR = 2.88; 95% CI, 1.65-5.03). The transmission of hepatitis C in A-Lein is closely related to low socioeconomic status, age, alcohol abuse, spouses being anti-HCV(+), and frequent medical injections, especially from non-licensed medical providers, including both pharmacists and those with no medical licensing whatsoever. These non-licensed medical providers sometimes reuse needles to save money, which is a likely route of infection.
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