CDC: Surge in Heroin Use Responsible for Tens of Thousands of Hepatitis C Cases, Deaths
According to health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a massive increase in new cases of hepatitis C in the United States in the last few years, and the surge in heroin use is said to be at fault:
“Injection drug use is the primary risk factor for new HCV infections.”
The CDC reported last week that in 2015 there were nearly 34,000 new infections, reflecting a 300% increase from 2010. The report, which was compiled by state analysis of known cases, revealed that 17 states reported rates greater than the national average. Also, 18 states have no prevention laws established.
Not surprisingly, states hardest hit by opioid abuse are showing the highest rates of hepatitis C. For example, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Tennessee and West Virginia all have rates at least twice the national average.
Hepatitis C treatments have a 95% cure rate, but the report states that at least 24 states require that Medicaid treatment is only available for persons who are clean and can prove it. Without treatment, hepatitis can be deadly. The CDC report that in 2013, for example, that some 19,000 people died from the disease.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is liver inflammation resulting from drug abuse, alcoholism, or the presence of toxins or infectious disease. It is contagious and has symptoms that can be any from mild to severe, and includes fatigue, fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and jaundice, among others.
The CDC recommends that to prevent disease, clean needles should be available to users, Medicaid restrictions should be eliminating in those states that have them in place, and preventative laws should be established:
“State laws that increase access to syringe exchange programs and clean needles and syringes, and policies that facilitate access to HCV treatment through state Medicaid programs can reduce HCV transmission risk.”
Only three states (Maine, New Mexico, and Washington) were found to have both a “comprehensive set of laws and a permissive Medicaid treatment policy that might affect access to both HCV preventive and treatment services for persons who inject drugs.”
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology