13 May, 2017
The number of new hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections reported to CDC has nearly tripled over 5 years, reaching the highest number in 15 years, preliminary surveillance data show. For example, a total of 850 cases were reported to the CDC in 2010 and 2436 cases were reported in 2015, but these numbers do not necessarily "reflect the true scale of the epidemic". Chronic infection can lead to cirrhosis or cancer of the liver. A study out of Philadelphia found that only 15 percent were adequately followed to see if they had Hepatitis C, he noted.
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. Others can start treatment for the virus around age 3.
The virus can be spread by sharing drugs and needles, the stick of a contaminated needle, and through sex. Many believe the drug epidemic is the leading cause for the increase in Hepatitis C cases.
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.
"The harm that it will cause to not be able to treat this disease is only going to multiply the longer we wait", Gee said Thursday. The Department of Health and Human Services has developed five strategies to combat the current opioid epidemic.
Seventeen states had hepatitis C infection rates that exceeded the national average in 2015, the CDC reported.
Hepatitis C can be successfully treated, treatments are available.
Daniel Raymond, policy director for the national Harm Reduction Coalition, has pushed for a needle exchange program to slow the spread of hepatitis C, according to USA Today.
Ward and his colleagues believe states can reduce the number of people risking a hepatitis C infection by adopting laws and policies that would increase access for IV drug users to services meant to prevent and treat the infection.
The increase is likely due to the increasing opioid epidemic in the United States that is disproportionately affecting rural areas of states including Tennessee and West Virginia.
There is a cure for hepatitis C, but treatment costs about $50,000. Its ability to be present but not make someone ill underscores the need for expanded programs for prevention and treatment options for people with addiction, said Patrick.
West Virginia, which has been ravaged by opioids, had the highest rate at 22.6 per live births.
"We found that some counties - particularly rural counties in Tennessee - where eight percent of infants were exposed to hepatitis C", said Patrick.
"It continues to call for public health approach", Patrick said.