New Hepatitis C Infections Hit 15-Year High: CDC

Posted May 13, 2017

Rates of the viral disease hepatitis C have risen sharply in recent years, almost doubling in pregnant women, according to a new report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New hepatitis C virus infections are increasing most rapidly among young people, with the highest overall number of new infections among 20- to 29-year-olds. The virus is spread by sharing needles to inject drugs, and the increase coincided with a surge in heroin use. The disease has few symptoms and testing is so limited, however, that CDC estimates about 34,000 people had hepatitis C in 2015.

Hepatitis C is related to more deaths in the United States than 60 other infectious diseases. If left untreated, it can cause liver cancer or scarring of the liver.

Acute hepatitis C can be asymptomatic.

The lawsuit, filed by the Florida Justice Institute, seeks an immediate injunction forcing the state prison system to start treating inmates with the disease by providing medications that have been approved and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Drug Administration since 2013.

The rise of hepatitis C is linked to injection drug use.

Regions hardest hit by opioid overdose deaths were also most likely to see jumps in hepatitis C, the report noted. She's the medical director for HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and viral hepatitis at the Tennessee Department of Health.

Hepatitis C can be successfully treated, treatments are available.

He said the Hepatitis C epidemic will worsen if the opioid crisis continues on this path.

More Americans die from hepatitis C than any other infectious disease reported to the CDC. In fact, during these years, the number of cases was said to have tripled: from 850 in 2010 to 2,436 in 2015. One study indicates that 80 percent of young people with hepatitis C live more than 10 miles from an SSP. They estimate about 3.4 million people now have the disease.

TDH State Epidemiologist Tim Jones, M.D., said the study is an important reminder of the threat of this growing epidemic to high-risk populations throughout the U.S.

"I mean probably a third of our clientele know they have hepatitis C. Probably a third more haven't been diagnosed", he said. The report was compiled through a state-by-state analysis of reported cases, as well as a review of laws related to access to clean needles for drug users and levels of restriction on Medicaid access to treatments, Reuters reported.

The worrisome part, Patrick said, is that the children could go on to have liver problems because of the infection, which is often a silent infection.

The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) comes forth a week before National Hepatitis Testing Day, which is celebrated each year on May 19.