Hepatitis C is related to more deaths in the United States than 60 other infectious diseases. As the heroin epidemic persists, so do cases of Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis Cases Rise With The Heroin Epidemic
The weekly report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on May 12 points out yet another implication of the current heroin epidemic. Apart from the 91 overdose deaths a day, the opioid epidemic is also responsible for the spike of hepatitis C cases of late.
In the report, the CDC states that the rise of injection drug use is the primary cause of the increase in new hepatitis C infections. In 2015 alone, the rates of hepatitis C cases remained high throughout the country, but 17 states exceeded the national average.
Between the years of 2010 and 2015, the CDC saw a nationwide increase of hepatitis C cases by 294 percent. Because hepatitis C transmission is associated with exposure to infected blood, injection drug use is seen as a main factor in the prevalence and increase of the disease.
What's more, even if therapy can cure about 90 percent of hepatitis C patients, the CDC still recommends stricter public health laws and policies to help reduce the onset of new hepatitis C cases along with the heroin epidemic.
While Utah, Maine, and Nevada had the most comprehensive laws related to the prevention of hepatitis C, 18 states had the least comprehensive laws relating to hepatitis C prevention. Specifically, these 18 states do not have laws authorizing a syringe exchange program.
May Is Hepatitis Awareness Month
It is hepatitis awareness month, with May 19 as the national testing day in the country. 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.
HCV is said to be the most common form of hepatitis in the United States, which accounted for about 19,000 deaths in 2013. The current report emphasizes the importance of monitoring the prevalence of the disease especially in at risk communities.
Hepatitis C Virus
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus that is spread either by birth to a mother who is infected with hepatitis C, or through needles, such as sharing needles or other equipment used to inject drugs. It can also be transmitted through sharing personal care items such as toothbrushes and razor blades, and through sexual contact with an infected individual.
For some of the infected, hepatitis C can just be a short-term illness, but 70 to 85 percent of the infected often experience long-term health problems, even death. Compared to hepatitis A and hepatitis B, HCV does not have preventative vaccines.