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Free testing for hepatitis C stepped up

Deaths from hepatitis C continue to be high, which is why anyone at risk is urged to get screened.

Soaring rates of hepatitis C deaths nationwide have pushed a local task force to redouble efforts to encourage people to get tested for the liver-ravaging disease.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that hepatitis C-associated deaths reached an all-time high of 19,659 in 2014, killing more people in the United States than any other infectious disease. The same report indicated the infection rate statewide increased from 39 cases per every 100,000 Pennsylvanians in 2009 to 81 per 100,000 in 2013.

The CDC data highlight a new wave of hepatitis C infections among young people injecting drugs — mainly heroin — who are young, white and living in suburban and rural areas.

“The country is in the middle of a heroin epidemic,” said Jason Herring, the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force’s director of programs and communications. “The Appalachians have been hit hard along with the Midwest. We’re seeing a lot of transmission via intravenous drug use.”

In Allegheny County, most infected people younger than 35 are IV drug abusers, said Dr. Kristen Mertz, a county health department medical epidemiologist.

The Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force offers free testing six days a week at its East Liberty office. The testing is easy — a simple prick of the finger — and results are available within 20 minutes.

Read Full Article: Free testing for hepatitis C stepped up | TribLIVE

Read Full Article: Free testing for hepatitis C stepped up | TribLIVE

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