Hepatitis C cases are on the rise in Alaska.
The number of hepatitis C cases reported among younger Alaskans has increased dramatically, particularly in Southeast Alaska, according to the latest information from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
Between 2011 and 2015, the rate of hepatitis C infections reported in people between ages 18 and 29 skyrocketed by 490 percent in Southeast Alaska, followed by a 270 percent increase in Southwest and 267 percent increase in Northern Alaska, according to the state’s epidemiology bulletin released last week.
The report comes as health officials try to deal with an outbreak of heroin and opioid abuse in Alaska that has already resulted in a sharp increase in overdose deaths.
Louisa Castrodale, an Alaska epidemiologist, said health officials have not interviewed each young Alaskan with hepatitis C reported in 2015, so they cannot pinpoint what has caused the unprecedented uptick — whether it’s mostly due to drug use or a heightened awareness of testing for the virus, which can sit unnoticed in a person’s body for years.
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