Monday, May 11, 2015

Hepatitis C cases have risen 364% in Appalachia; injection of drugs spreading disease at rapid rate

Hepatitis C cases rose 364 percent in  Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia from 2006 to 2012, says a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Brian Wu reports for The Science Times. "Of the cases that have been reported . . . 73.1 percent reported injecting drugs." Among new cases, 44.8 percent involved people under 30.

"The rate of new hepatitis C infections has also risen nationwide, more than doubling from 0.3 cases per 100,000 people in 2010 to 0.7 cases in 2013," Wu writes. Kentucky had the highest rate at 5.1 cases per 100,000 people. Delaware and South Carolina did not report any new cases.

While officials said HIV rates are low in all four states, they said they fear that the increase in hepatitis C cases could lead to a rise in HIV cases, Wu writes. Officials said needle exchange programs are key in the four states to reduce the number of potential HIV cases. John Ward, director of viral hepatitis prevention at the CDC, said many people with hepatitis are unaware that they have it, Liz Szabo reports for USA Today.

"About 4.5 million Americans older than 12 abused prescription painkillers in 2013, and 289,000 used heroin, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration," Szabo writes. "About 75 percent of new heroin users previously abused opioid painkillers. The number of first-time heroin users grew from 90,000 people in 2006 to 156,000 in 2012, according to the CDC."

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