Iowa saw an all-time high in hepatitis C diagnoses in a recent year.
Iowa saw an all-time high in hepatitis C diagnoses in 2016, according to a recent report from the Iowa Department of Public Health.
According to the report released in early December, the largest number of people were diagnosed with the hepatitis C virus since reporting began in 2000 — a total of 2,287 Iowans.
Hepatitis C is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver and is spread through blood to blood contact. The virus can affect each person differently, but chronic viral hepatitis can lead to scarring of the liver, or in some cases, serious conditions like liver cancer.
The Iowa Department of Public Health’s report included both screening and confirmatory tests.
Heather Meador, senior public health nurse at Linn County Public Health, said the screening test only looks for the antibody associated for the virus, while the confirmatory follow-up test determines if the virus is actually present in the body.
Public Health officials believe the record number is due to increased testing among baby boomers.
However, for those aged 40 and younger, there is a more concerning trend of diagnoses that are related injecting drug use, said Nicole Kolm-Valdivia, data program manager for the Iowa Department of Public Health.
The report found that 15 percent of all hepatitis C diagnoses — or 347 people — were 30 years old or younger.
“This increase continues a trend observed since reporting began,” the report stated. “An analysis of surveillance data indicated that, of the 338 people 30 and under who were eligible for follow up, 68 percent of people reported injection drug use.”
Meador said public health officials at Linn County Public Health are seeing an upward trend of diagnoses related to injection drug use in those within that age group.
According to data from Linn County Public Health, seven people between the ages of 13-30 were diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2010. In 2016, there were 29 people.
Since February 2017, Johnson County Public Health has diagnosed 10 individuals, the majority of whom “identified as using injection drugs and are 30 or younger,” said Kathryn Edel, health educator at Johnson County Public Health.
“That’s why we take the opioid epidemic very seriously as a public health issue,” Meador said. “One, because the deaths associated with it but also because the communicable diseases associated with it. When you’re sharing needles, there can be issues with HIV transmission and hepatitis C transmission and we really worry about that.”
Unlike HIV, Meador said the hepatitis C virus continues to live outside of the body.
Read full article: 2016 hepatitis C diagnoses at all-time high statewide | The Gazette
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