Hepatitis C Virus Infection in the Dallas County Jail: Implications for Screening, Prevention, and Linkage to Care

Caroline M. Abe, Merilyne Aguwa, Michelle Zhao, Jacqueline Sullivan, Esmaeil Porsa, Ank E. Nijhawan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objectives: Screening for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in jail provides an opportunity to educate and offer care to a high-risk population. We aimed to (1) estimate the prevalence of HCV infection in jail; (2) describe the demographic characteristics, risk factors, and pre-incarceration health insurance status associated with HCV infection; and (3) examine the implementation of HCV screening in jail. Methods: We conducted a retrospective analysis of an opt-out HCV screening program with HCV RNA confirmation and patient education at the Dallas County Jail from April 1 through November 2, 2017. We extracted data on test results, demographic characteristics, and release destination from electronic medical records. A nurse navigator recorded data on patient self-reported risk factors and pre-incarceration health insurance status. Results: Of 4089 incarcerated persons screened, 708 (17.3%) had a positive HCV antibody result. Of these, 641 (90.5%) had an HCV RNA test ordered; 576 (89.9%) had RNA tests completed, of whom 413 (71.7%) had a positive HCV RNA result. Of these 413, 352 (85.2%) received patient education. Half of HCV RNA-positive incarcerated persons (n = 207, 50.1%) were born outside the birth cohort (1945-1965). Among those with HCV infection, commonly reported risk factors were injection drug use (168 of 352; 47.8%) and tattoos (82 of 352; 23.4%). Most incarcerated persons with HCV infection (284 of 350; 81.1%) did not have health insurance. HCV antibody prevalence was higher among incarcerated persons released to prison (232 of 961; 24.1%) than to outside agencies (38 of 403; 9.4%) or the community (178 of 1026; 17.4%). Conclusions: Screening for HCV with RNA confirmation in jail provides an opportunity for disease education, transmission prevention, and navigation to HCV treatment. Future efforts should examine post-incarceration linkage to care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)626-633
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Health Reports
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • health insurance
  • hepatitis C
  • incarceration
  • prevalence
  • risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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