Heroin Epidemic Triples Cases Of Hepatitis C In The US

Heroin Epidemic Triples Cases Of Hepatitis C In The US

Heroin Epidemic Triples Cases Of Hepatitis C In The US

The heroin epidemic is driving up hepatitis C infections, with the biggest increase in people in their 20s, USA health officials said Thursday.

In a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, May 11, 2017, hepatitis C infections have almost tripled since 2010 _ an increase mainly due to the heroin epidemic.

Most infections resulted from injection drug use, officials said, underscoring calls by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for needle exchanges as a way to thwart drug addicts from spreading disease.

According to the Kentucky Department for Public Health, the state had the highest rate of new acute Hepatitis C infections from 2008 to 2015, with more than 1,000 cases. Most people do not know they are infected, and the virus is more prevalent in the prison population. The CDC notes the disease is "the most common blood-borne infection" in the US, affecting approximately 3.5 million Americans.

If left untreated, the disease may scar the liver (cirrhosis), and eventually cause liver cancer and then liver failure.

Around one in four people with hepatitis C will get rid of the virus naturally.

The states that have been hit the hardest by the ongoing drug problem appeared to have the worst rates in Hepatitis C cases. She's the medical director for HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and viral hepatitis at the Tennessee Department of Health. Unlike hepatitis A and B, there's no vaccine for hepatitis C and it can be fatal if not treated.

"In my neonatal intensive care unit", Dr. Patrick says, "I have personally seen an increase in hepatitis C virus, particularly among infants that have opioid withdrawal".

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Hepatitis C is not just a disease contracted by people who inject drugs. Those individuals aged 20 to 29 account for the "highest overall number of new infections" reported in the surveillance data. Why?

An analysis in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report released Thursday looks at whether states are promoting or preventing access to clean needles.

"As the opioid epidemic has continued to evolve, there has been an uptick in heroin and now fentanyl-related complications", said Patrick. They estimate about 3.4 million people now have the disease.

The authors also stressed the need for a system to ensure all infants exposed to hepatitis C are monitored to see if they get the virus and offer care.

"The FDC recognizes that hepatitis C is a serious disease that is easy to cure", said Randall C. Berg Jr., FJI's executive director.

Currently there are a number of FDA-approved regimens "and the beauty is that these regimens are now virtually uniformly successful" in bringing about a cure of the infection, said Chung.

May 19 is National Hepatitis Testing Day.

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