Hepatitis C infections reach all time high

Hepatitis C in the US: Cases triple in past 5 years

The CDC reported that Hepatitis C infections tripled between 2010 and 2015, and most of the infected are IV drug users.

"We suspect it is linked to the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States", said Patrick, explaining his team previously found a 5-fold increase in infants having opioid withdrawal after birth with newborn opioid withdrawal occurring at higher rates in rural areas.

"Cases of acute and chronic hepatitis C in Pierce County are on a dramatic rise, especially among young people", said Kim Desmarais, a viral hepatitis coordinator for the health department. The CDC estimates the number of infections in 2015 was 34,000, or twice as many as the 2010 estimate.

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. Last year, the agency reported a record number of fatalities from the virus occurred in 2014.

The only way to prevent this infection is to use clean needles or to not use at all. Compared to hepatitis A and hepatitis B, HCV does not have preventative vaccines.

"I mean probably a third of our clientele know they have hepatitis C. Probably a third more haven't been diagnosed", he said. The number of new cases among young people pales in comparison, said Brian Skorney, an analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co.

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Though 90% of hepatitis C infections can be cured through treatment, the disease still remains a deadly threat, NPR noted.

"Women need treatment and they can't get treatment during pregnancy", Patrick said.

In West Virginia, the study found that more than 1 in 50 newborns was exposed to hepatitis C at the time of childbirth, researchers said.

Miller says people who are actively injecting drugs should get tested for the virus every six months. West Virginia was charted with the highest infection rate in 2014 at 22.6 per 1,000 live births. Gilead's Sovaldi costs about $84,000 for a weeks-long regimen. It often takes years to start affecting the body, eventually damaging the liver.

"Needle exchange is our first line of defense against the spread of hepatitis C and HIV among people who inject", Raymond said. "Now we need a substantial, focused and concerted national effort to implement the National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan and make effective prevention tools and curative treatment available to Americans in need", Ward said.

"Hepatitis C is associated with more deaths in the United States than 60 other infectious diseases reported to CDC combined", the researchers write. The hepatitis C virus spreads through the blood but does most of its damage by infecting the liver, which can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer. About half of those who died were aged 55 to 63, the CDC said.

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