We described the changing epidemiology of viral hepatitis among the American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) population that uses Indian Health Service (IHS) health care.
We used hospital discharge data from the IHS National Patient Information Reporting System to determine rates of hepatitis A-, B-, and C-associated hospitalization among AI/ANs using IHS health care from 1995–2007 and summary periods 1995–1997 and 2005–2007.
Hepatitis A-associated hospitalization rates among AI/AN people decreased from 4.9 per 100,000 population during 1995–1997 to 0.8 per 100,000 population during 2005–2007 (risk ratio [RR] = 0.2, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.1, 0.2). While there was no significant change in the overall hepatitis B-associated hospitalization rate between time periods, the average annual rate in people aged 45–64 years increased by 109% (RR=2.1, 95% CI 1.4, 3.2). Between the two time periods, the hepatitis C-associated hospitalization rate rose from 13.0 to 55.0 per 100,000 population (RR=4.2, 95% CI 3.8, 4.7), an increase of 323%. The hepatitis C-associated hospitalization rate was highest among people aged 45–64 years, males, and those in the Alaska region.
Hepatitis A has decreased to near-eradication levels among the AI/AN population using IHS health care. Hepatitis C-associated hospitalizations increased significantly; however, there was no significant change in hepatitis B-associated hospitalizations. Emphasis should be placed on continued universal childhood and adolescent hepatitis B vaccination and improved vaccination of high-risk adults. Prevention and education efforts should focus on decreasing hepatitis C risk behaviors and identifying people with hepatitis C infection so they may be referred for treatment.