Heroin epidemic pushing up hepatitis C infections in US

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CBS News reports that those statistics are the equivalent of 35 infants being exposed to the virus per day. The main driver behind this is the ongoing opioid epidemic the United States of America is facing, particularly heroin and other injection drugs.

Around 90 percent of US children are vaccinated against hepatitis A and B and though no vaccine exists for hepatitis C, it can be treated with a relatively short course (12-week) of an oral anti-viral medication.

Most infections resulted from injection drug use, officials said, underscoring calls by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for needle exchanges as a way to thwart drug addicts from spreading disease.

Hepatitis C is inflammation of the liver that can be caused by drug use, toxins, heavy alcohol use, some diseases or bacterial and viral infections.

The study joins other evidence pointing to the devastating effects of opioid abuse on hepatitis C rates. The remainder will develop chronic infection.

Dr. Raymond Chung, a member of the committee of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases that provides hepatitis C treatment guidance to doctors, said there are several impediments to treating the drug-using population.

Thousands of Florida prison inmates who have hepatitis C are not getting adequate medication and treatment - leaving them at risk for liver failure, liver cancer and death, according to a lawsuit filed against the Florida Department of Corrections.

Findings echo a recent report published in the journal Clinical infectious Diseases, in which scientists showed HCV rates among people who inject drugs remains high in North American cities, but has fallen in some parts of Europe and Australia.

Overall 3.4 out of every 1,000 infants born in 2014 (the year with the latest nationwide data) were born infected with hepatitis, according to the CDC's weekly report. There are other ways that the virus can be transmitted.

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Pierce County saw 32 new cases of acute hepatitis C in 2016. About 3.5 million people, mostly over 55, are infected. Some people may feel briefly unwell and in rare cases may become jaundiced (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Symptoms are rare, only one-quarter of those infected with the disease exhibit signs, but include yellow skin (jaundice), vomiting, nausea, fever and fatigue.

First, it's simply hard to identify and then treat people who inject drugs, said Chung, who did not participate in the CDC research.

Even if your mom always told you to share, she also told you don't do drugs.

"We have a cure for this disease and the tools to prevent new infections", he said in a statement accompanying the research.

If you are considering having body piercing, ear piercing, a tattoo, semi-permanent make-up or acupuncture, whether in this country or overseas, make sure that any equipment used is sterile. Sky high hepatitis C drug costs have led states to restrict coverage of drugs to treat it.

In West Virginia, the investigators found that more than one in 50 newborns were exposed to HCV at the time of childbirth.

"In some counties in Tennessee, almost 8 percent of pregnant women were documented as being infected with hepatitis C at the time of delivery".

The report was released ahead of National Hepatitis Testing Day, which is held in the US on May 19.

"Our study found substantially higher rates of HCV among pregnant women in rural and Appalachian counties in Tennessee", said Patrick.

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