Hepatitis C infection rates continue to rise in the United States.
he United States’ overall rate of hepatitis C infection more than doubled from 2004 to 2014 — and among people under 40, it increased by 300 to 400 percent.
The reason for the jump? Transmission through injecting opioid drugs, said a report published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health.
Lead author Jon Zibbell, senior public health analyst in the Behavioral and Urban Health program of North Carolina-based RTI International, said public health officials have long presumed the link, but the research, performed in conjunction with a number of other agencies, provides data to back it up.
Spread through reusing equipment
Injection drug use is now the most common risk factor for hepatitis C, itself the most common chronic bloodborne infection in the United States, and data indicates 28 percent of injectors are infected within a year.
“Once the virus is introduced into a network of persons who inject drugs, it can circulate quickly through the reuse of contaminated drug injection equipment — specifically, needles, syringes, cookers and filers,” the report said.
Zibbell said that’s accounted for hepatitis C outbreaks in various parts of the country — and public health experts expect more.
Hep C part of opioid epidemic
Zibbell, formerly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had previously studied the relationship between hepatitis C infection and drug injection in four states — Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky — and found a 200 to 300 percent increase in the number of infected people who’d injected drugs.
“At the time, hepatitis C wasn’t being talked about as part of the opioid epidemic,” Zibbell said, noting the absence of infectious disease in the president’s report on opioid addiction. “It was really kind of a game changer.”
Read full article: Report: ‘Substantial’ hepatitis C infection increase tied to opioid epidemic
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