Heroin epidemic pushing up hepatitis C infections in US

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

Most people don't get sick for many years after they are infected. Pressured by low stockpiles, these providers have refused to pay for many with the disease to receive these medications, Hopkins said, including drug users.

Hepatitis C leads to liver cancer.

"Much less frequently, hepatitis C is also transmitted through sexual contact or during pregnancy between a mother and baby", Ward said.

"People shouldn't think they're safe from hepatitis C just because they're not injecting drugs", Meyer said. "We need to educate people about risk factors, and be permitted to offer programs, like syringe exchange, to reduce the transmission of this disease".

Used syringes rest in a pile at a needle exchange clinic in St. Johnsbury, Vt. Did the state permit a person to disclose possession of a needle to an arresting officer to avoid criminal prosecution?

The disease might have infected thousands of county residents who use heroin and other injectable drugs, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. These strategies include improving access to treatment and recovery services; promoting the use of overdose-reversing drugs; strengthening current understanding of the opioid epidemic through better public-health surveillance; providing support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction; and advancing better practices for pain management.

ISDH Epidemiologist, Dr. Josh Clayton, said the unconfirmed cases are likely because many people are silent carriers. Image credit: Penn State News.

The report also looks at whether states permit the retail sale of syringes without a prescription.

Before 2013, the county saw maybe five cases per year. In 2015 alone, the rates of hepatitis C cases remained high throughout the country, but 17 states exceeded the national average.

Infections among pregnant women have almost doubled since 2009.

"In my neonatal intensive care unit, I have personally seen an increase in Hepatitis C virus, particularly among infants that have opioid withdrawal", said. Acute hepatitis C, which begins within six months of exposure, can move into a long-lasting stage, chronic hepatitis C.

'Anyone born between 1945-1965, or who has ever used IV drugs, or is otherwise anxious about hepatitis infection, is encouraged to discuss with their clinicians whether testing may be appropriate for them, ' he said.

In West Virginia, the investigators found that more than one in 50 newborns were exposed to HCV at the time of childbirth.

Diving deeper, Patrick and his colleagues examined individual features associated with hepatitis C infection in Tennessee.

Treating the virus before a woman becomes pregnant is critically important, Patrick said. "We suspect this is highly linked to the opioid epidemic". Hepatitis C is the most common strain of hepatitis in the US, being responsible for more than 20,000 deaths each year.

The CDC said the data show the increase was primarily a result of intravenous drug use. The state's Department of Public Health says in 2000 - there were 724 cases.

Twenty-four states had policies that require some period of sobriety to receive HCV treatment through Medicaid, potentially limiting access to cures, compared with 16 states without such restrictions. Today, the price of these treatments generally range from about $60,000 to $90,000 for a standard 12-week course of treatment.

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