College undergraduates in the United States do not recognize the magnitude of their risk behaviors for contracting Hepatitis C, according to a survey conducted at a large Midwestern university. Researchers found that 75 percent of undergraduates in this study had a potential hepatitis C risk factor, from tattoos to sharing body jewelry. Results of this study were presented at the 71st annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in Las Vegas.
Researchers surveyed 610 college undergraduates on their knowledge of hepatitis C and their personal experience with traditional (intravenous drug use, blood transfusions) and novel risk factors (sharing of body jewelry, tattoos). Twenty-seven percent didn’t know hepatitis C virus (HCV) could be spread through intravenous drug use, while 77 percent of students were unaware HCV could be transmitted by intranasal cocaine use. Furthermore, 53 percent of students reported sharing pierced jewelry.
“We were surprised by the proportion of undergraduates who were inadvertently putting themselves at risk for hepatitis C,” says Thomas Shehab, MD, of St. Joseph Mercy Health System and Huron Gastro. “In addition to well documented traditional risk factors, we are concerned about students who may be putting themselves at risk for this serious disease with even something as simple as sharing pierced body jewelry.“