An opioid epidemic is contributing to rising hepatitis C rates.
At a time when cases of hepatitis C are on the rise in North Carolina due to the ongoing opioid epidemic, Triangle-based physicians and state officials have partnered on a new mentorship program to combat the liver disease.
The UNC School of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center and the N.C. Division of Public Health launched the Carolina Hepatitis Academic Mentorship Program (CHAMP) earlier this year. The program is currently providing “telementoring” services to roughly 30 primary care providers in the state, according to Dr. Michael Fried, professor of medicine and director of the UNC Liver Center.
“In North Carolina, acute Hepatitis C has increased 400 percent since 2009,” UNC stated in a release announcing the new partnership. “There are an estimated 110,000 people in the state living with chronic hepatitis C – a persistent liver disease that can lead to serious complications, including cirrhosis or liver cancer.”
While hepatitis C is “not easy to contract,” says Fried, an increase in heroin use that is part of the opioid epidemic (i.e., sharing needles for injection) has largely contributed to the rise in cases in North Carolina. The disease – which requires direct blood contact for transmission – is curable, but often asymptomatic until 20 or 30 years after infection, he says, when severe complications can present.
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