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State urges testing as reports of hepatitis surge

More people need to be tested for hepatitis C.

State health officials are sounding the alarm on the rise on hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections.

Preliminary data from 2014 to 2016 shows a 56 percent increase in hepatitis B infections, with 172 new cases, and a 69 percent increase in hepatitis C, with 186 new cases. These numbers reflect only reported cases, and doctors estimate the actual number of new cases to be much higher.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and includes three different types – A, B and C. New or acute cases of types B and C can develop into chronic infections that could lead to problems, such as liver failure and liver cancer.

Hepatitis occurs when the infected blood from one person enters the body of an uninfected person.

Increased injection drug use with shared needles is the biggest factor behind the spike in cases, and the state recommends anybody who has shared needles get tested. The infection can also be spread through sex with an infected partner.

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