Opioid Epidemic Fuels Surge in Hep C Cases
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), new hepatitis C infections in the United States tripled between 2010 and 2015—mostly in young people who inject illegal drugs. There is no vaccine for hep C, which can cause severe liver damage.
About 3.5 million people in the U.S.—mostly baby boomers—are infected with hepatitis C, but the actual number is believed to be much higher. Hep C usually causes vague symptoms, such as fever, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and nausea, and most people who are newly infected do not receive a prompt diagnosis.
Rural and suburban areas in seven states—hardest hit by the opioid crisis—have seen hep C increases more than twice the national average. These states include Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Tennessee, and West Virginia. According to the CDC, laws increasing access to services intended to prevent and treat hep C infection in IV drug users are needed.
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