Hepatitis C cases soar in United States as officials point to heroin use

Posted May 13, 2017

"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", Jones said in a statement.

In a report released by the CDC looking at hepatitis C virus (HCV) cases and injected drugs, researchers found HCV rates increased by nearly 300 percent between 2010 and 2014.

"We know that using opioids, particularly injecting opioids, is the principal reason why people contract hepatitis C virus", says Dr. Stephen Patrick of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

There were over 19,000 deaths in 2015 associated with hepatitis C, exceeding "the combined number of deaths with 60 other infectious diseases as underlying causes", according to the CDC. As such, the CDC is emphasizing the importance being educated about hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV), and getting tested for the said diseases.

The rate of pregnant women in America with hepatitis C has nearly doubled in just five years, new data reveals.

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

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The study joins other evidence pointing to the devastating effects of opioid abuse on hepatitis C rates. "In turn many - most, in some communities - people who inject drugs become infected with hepatitis C". West Virginia had the highest infection rate in 2014 at 22.6 per 1,000 live births.

While there are medications that can resolve hepatitis C infections, they are not approved for pregnant women or children at this point. Russell Glass is a recovering addict who's been diagnosed with hepatitis C before.

Hepatitis C increases in mothers and newborns "are just part of a bigger trend", Meyer said.

The virus can be spread by sharing drugs and needles, the stick of a contaminated needle, and through sex.

While grim news from a public health standpoint, the rising number of infections is an opportunity for drugmakers including Gilead Sciences Inc.

In Wisconsin, cases of acute Hepatitis C have skyrocketed, going up 450 percent from 2011 to 2015.

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"These programs also help link people to treatments to stop drug use, testing for infectious diseases that can be spread to others, and medical care".

And the CDC advocates using needle exchange programs to prevent infection. ME has also seen an increase in reported infections.

It's a problem experts describe as a "dual epidemic" because it's directly tied to opioids such as heroin. They estimate about 3.4 million people now have the disease.

There is a cure for hepatitis C, but treatment costs about $50,000.

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

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