Hepatitis C Cases in Maine Spiking Amid Opioid Crisis

Hepatitis C in the US: Cases triple in past 5 years

In the latest report, the CDC found that from 2010 to 2015, HCV (the virus that causes hepatitis C) the number of cases increased by 294 percent, with rates highest among people who injected drugs.

A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that new cases of Hepatitis C infection have almost tripled in the USA over a five-year period.

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. So the CDC thinks the reported cases are only a fraction of actual infections. Most people do not know they are infected, and the virus is more prevalent in the prison population. About one in five of people with chronic infection will eventually develop severe liver damage (cirrhosis), which can lead to liver cancer or liver failure and the need for liver transplantation. To this end, the CDC is calling for approaches that will tackle two epidemics: opioid addiction and infectious diseases associated with injection drug use. Intravenous drug use is the most common form of transmission in the United States.

In West Virginia, 2% of all infants were exposed to hepatitis C at birth, the highest rate nationwide. For example, around 19,000 people died of Hepatitis C in 2013.

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"Needle exchange is our first line of defense against the spread of hepatitis C and HIV among people who inject", Raymond said. Compared to hepatitis A and hepatitis B, HCV does not have preventative vaccines. "We need to continue to improve access to testing and treatment for hepatitis C", Saddler said.

Hepatitis C kills more Americans than any other infectious disease reported to CDC. Additionally, the agency estimates that somewhere between 850,000 and 2.2 million people are living in the USA without knowing they are infected with the hepatitis virus.

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

"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 US have hepatitis C, and a large percentage of them do not know it", Jones said in a statement.

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There's the potential to eradicate the virus from the USA using a combination of infection prevention, increasing access to the new pills and making sure the drugs are taken correctly, according to the CDC's Ward.

Of the 3.5 million Americans living with hepatitis, most were born between 1945 and 1965 and were infected decades ago, according to the CDC. Regions hardest hit by opioid overdose deaths were also most likely to see increases in HCV infection. Gee says she been forced to cut most mental health treatment services in the Medicaid program.

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

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