Saturday, 19 August, 2017

Rise In Hepatitis C Cases May Be Linked To Opioid Use

This map from the new study shows the rate of hepatitis C infections among pregnant women per 1,000 live births by state in 2014. The highest rates are in rural parts of West Virginia and Tennessee, which have been hard-hit by Hepatitis C in the US: Cases triple in past 5 years
Carol Daniels | 13 May, 2017, 10:43

Despite the release of lifesaving drugs that cure the hepatitis C virus (HCV), new cases continue to spike due to heroin use and other injection drugs, according to U.S. health officials.

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. Dr. John Ward, author of the new report from the CDC, said that research "identified increasing injection drug use - tied to the USA opioid epidemic - in rural and suburban areas across the country".

Confirmed cases of hepatitis C increased around the United States from 850 in 2010 to 2,436 in 2015 - about a 286 percent increase.

Since the liver-destroying infection doesn't usually cause symptoms until it's too late, it is important to make sure people get tested - and to fight the practices that get people infected in the first place, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report. If left untreated, it can cause liver cancer or scarring of the liver.

The rise of hepatitis C is linked to injection drug use.

In West Virginia, where the ongoing opioid epidemic has hit hard, the infection rate was 22.6 women per 1,000 live births.

That same year, about 20,000 deaths in the US were linked to the virus. "We have a cure for this disease and the tools to prevent new infections".

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Globally, hepatitis C and B have a higher mortality than HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria, adding to 1.5 million deaths each year.

In the Valley, the Mahoning County Board of Health told 21 News the number of reported infections with the virus has gone up noticeably.

"As the opioid epidemic has continued to evolve, there has been an uptick in heroin and now fentanyl-related complications", said Patrick.

Researchers urge ensuring women of childbearing age and infants exposed to the virus have access to hepatitis C testing and treatment.

The report - released Thursday for Hepatitis Awareness Month, which is this month, and ahead of National Hepatitis Testing Day on Friday, May 19 - also looked at whether states allowed the retail sale of syringes without a prescription to addicts who inject drugs. Not only are baby boomers six times more likely to have the infection compared with other age groups, they are also at increased risk of virus-related death.

More Americans die from hepatitis C than any other infectious disease reported to the CDC. Introducing laws and policies relating to access to syringe exchange programs and clean needles would help reduce transmission risk, they write.

Standard treatment of the disease was revolutionized in 2013 with the advent of direct-acting antiviral drugs, which cure 90 to 95 percent of patients, with little or no side effects, according to the CDC. The importance of this effort was underscored recently by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which in a recent report concluded that eliminating hepatitis C as a public health threat in the United States is feasible if the right steps are taken.

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