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Exploding Opioid Crisis Triples New Cases of Hepatitis C

May 12, 2017 12:58 PM EDT
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A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that new cases of Hepatitis C infection have nearly tripled in the U.S. over a five-year period.

CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report showed that the use of heroin and other injection drugs played a significant role in the recent increase in Hepatitis C cases.

"These new infections are most frequently among young people who transition from taking prescription pills to injecting heroin, which has become cheaper and more easily available in some cases," said Dr. John Ward, director at CDC's division for viral hepatitis and an author of the new report, as per CNN. "In turn many -- most, in some communities -- people who inject drugs become infected with Hepatitis C."

In 2015, the CDC recorded about 2,436 new cases of Hepatitis C infections. The number of new Hepatitis C cases in 2015 is significantly higher than what was recorded in 2015, which is 850 new cases. Among those cases, young teens, aged 20 to 29 years old and using IV drugs, have the highest rate of infection.

The researchers observed a link between the increasing rate of new Hepatitis C infections and the rising opioid epidemic. The report showed that the seven states, which include New Mexico, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Tennessee, West Virginia and Maine, have a statistically significant increase drug overdose deaths also have an infection rate at least twice the national average.

Due to possible under-ascertainment and under-reporting, CDC noted that the number of new Hepatitis C cases could be much higher in 2015. After a few adjustments, the CDC estimated 33,900 new cases of infection in 2015.

In the U.S., the CDC estimated 3.5 million people living with hepatitis C infection. Hepatitis C infection is considered to be the most common viral hepatitis in the U.S.

Symptoms of hepatitis C infection include fever, abdominal pain nausea, loss of appetite, joint pains, vomiting and jaundice. In 2013, Hepatitis C infection accounted for approximately 19,000 deaths in the U.S.

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