Dangerous strain of hepatitis striking suburban heroin users

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Dangerous strain of hepatitis striking suburban heroin users

Hepatitis C infections are increasingly common in certain demographics, namely young IV drug users. One study found two out of every five heroin addicts to have this disease.

Two out of every five young suburban heroin users in New Jersey are likely to be infected with hepatitis C – creating a “second wave” of the disease.

That’s the conclusion reached by doctors who looked at more than 800 patients admitted to Princeton House, a psychiatric facility for heroin detoxification, over a nine-month period.

A study released Wednesday of Princeton House clients ages 17 to 35 showed those with hepatitis were far more likely to have a more aggressive strain of the virus, according to Ronald G. Nahass, an infectious disease specialist with ID Care, a Hillsborough-based practice.

Hepatitis C3 is more likely to produce liver cancer, fibrosis or cirrhosis down the line, he said. More than 25 percent of the Princeton House hepatitis patients had that type – more than double the national average.

The finding points to a distinct “reservoir” of a type of hepatitis C that suburban heroin addicts pass among themselves. The findings appear in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal “Emerging Infectious Diseases.”

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