To measure knowledge and prevalences of risk factors for hepatitis C infection in the Victorian community.
Telephone survey of 757 Victorian householders aged 15+ years, March 1996.
An estimated 2.2% of Victorians have injected illicit drugs; 4.8% have tattoos and 49.6% have skin piercings; 11.4% received a blood transfusion before screening for HCV was introduced; 10.9% have had a test for HCV antibody. A majority of respondents perceived sexual contact and receipt of a transfusion to be risks for HCV transmission.
Risk factors associated with the spread of HCV are widespread in the Victorian community; however, the most important risk factor--injecting drug use--has low prevalence. Considerable uncertainty exists about risk factors for hepatitis C.
A very small percentage of Victorians are injecting drug users and therefore at highest risk of hepatitis C infection, therefore transmission control programs can be efficiently focused on this group. The Victorian community needs to be better educated about risk factors for hepatitis C, in particular that transfusions and blood donations are safe.