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Heroin epidemic pushing up hepatitis C infections in US

13 May 2017
Heroin epidemic pushing up hepatitis C infections in US

Increases were most notable in West Virginia and rural counties in Tennessee, areas strongly affected by the heroin and opioid epidemic, the CDC reported.

The Centers for Disease Control reported new cases of Hep C have increased nationwide by almost 300 percent from 2010 to 2015.

The United States Depart of Health and Human Services estimates that about 3.2 million Americans have the disease, many who don't even realize they're infected.

In the Valley, the Mahoning County Board of Health told 21 News the number of reported infections with the virus has gone up noticeably. Tennessee is among 18 states with the least comprehensive policies, with IN fairing only slightly better.

In particular, the CDC says some of the best ways to combat its spread are ways to boost access to clean needles - such as syringe exchange programs and decriminalization of the possession of paraphernalia.

Diving deeper, Patrick and his colleagues examined individual features associated with hepatitis C infection in Tennessee. West Virginia had the highest infection rate in 2014 at 22.6 per 1,000 live births.

'While this study focuses on pregnant women and a high-risk area in Tennessee, it is also important to remember that hundreds of thousands of people throughout the USA have hepatitis C, and a large percentage of them do not know it, ' Dr Jones said.

Women are increasingly giving birth to children infected with the liver disease hepatitis C, an 89% increase from 2009 to 2014, pediatrics experts reported on Thursday. The report notes some of that is thanks to the nation's opioid epidemic.

Besides living in rural areas, moms with hepatitis C were more likely to be single and to smoke than others. "We must reach the hardest-hit communities with a range of prevention and treatment services that can diagnose people with hepatitis C and link them to treatment". Just as the opioid crisis is showing no signs of slowing down, Kenney Miller of the Health Equity Alliance says the rate of hepatitis C infections continue unabated. "Heroin is generally injected and this comes with a risk of HCV and HIV".

He is director of the agency's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

Stop injecting drugs if you possibly can.

"All too often these persons have fragmentary or fleeting interactions with health care and never do quite make it back to have diagnosis either made or confirmed and more import, to have a care plan outlined", said Chung.

There is no vaccine for HCV, but there are treatments that can cure HCV infection. As the heroin epidemic persists, so do cases of Hepatitis C. "One strategy to prevent transmission would be to screen and target women of reproductive age before they get pregnant and if they're infected to treat them before pregnancy".

Most of the patients are aged between 20 and 29. Treatment for hepatitis C exists, although it is expensive, which is why Medicaid patients are nearly always denied any treatment.