May 14, 2015

New Study Shows Prescription Painkiller Abuse Increasing Hepatitis C Cases

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the number of Hepatitis C infections is on the rise among young people in the Appalachian region due to prescription and opiate drug abuse. The study was reported by USA Today.

CDC focused its research on the four states with the highest hepatitis C rates. CDC findings revealed that from 2006 to 2012, new cases of acute hepatitis C more than tripled among the young adult populations living in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Among individuals age 30 or younger, hepatitis instances rose from 1.25 per every 100,000 people in 2006 to 4 per 100,000 people by 2012.

Director John Ward of the Division of Viral Hepatitis at the CDC reported that around 73 percent of these hepatitis C patients admitted to injecting drugs. This action can result in spreading the disease when people share contaminated needles.

“We’re in the midst of a national epidemic of hepatitis C,” Ward told USA Today. “Nationwide, more than 20,000 Americans die from hepatitis C a year, which is more than the number who die from AIDS. The CDC views hepatitis C as an urgent public health problem.”

As for national hepatitis C statistics, cases have increased from 0.3 instances per 100,000 people in 2010 to 0.7 instances per 100,000 people in 2013. In 2013, Kentucky had the highest rate of hepatitis C cases, with 5.1 infections per 100,000 people, while South Carolina and Delaware had zero reported cases.

While some acute hepatitis C infections clear up naturally and without treatment, two-thirds of diagnosed individuals develop long-term, chronic infections that can result in liver cancer and death.

According to Ward, a younger generation of people are becoming infected because of the prescription drug abuse epidemic.

Hepatitis C is not the only blood virus spreading as a result of opioid abuse. Indiana Governor Mike Pence was forced to declare a public health emergency this past March after 149 cases of HIV were reported in Scott County. Most of the people diagnosed with HIV had admitted intravenously consuming a powerful prescription painkiller called Opana. Prior to the outbreak, this Indiana county reported less than five new cases of HIV each year.


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