Heroin epidemic pushing up hepatitis C infections in US

This map from the new study shows the rate of hepatitis C infections among pregnant women per 1,000 live births by state in 2014. The highest rates are in rural parts of West Virginia and Tennessee, which have been hard-hit by

The opioid epidemic now plaguing the country is being blamed for a dramatic increase in the number of pregnant women with hepatitis C.

Ahead of National Hepatitis Testing Day on May 19, the CDC released new statistics highlighting the public health threat posed by hepatitis B and C and a campaign of awareness to promote testing and managed care of the viral infection. The national data was used to study overall rates of hepatitis C infections in pregnant women and the Tennessee data was used to examine individual characteristics and outcomes associated with the infection.

Researchers from this study found that rural communities in Tennessee and West Virginia were significantly impacted.

The state is mired in an opioid abuse epidemic. The CDC report said intravenous drug use is the primary risk factor for new infections.

Over just five years, the number of new hepatitis C virus infections reported to CDC has almost tripled, reaching a 15-year high, according to new preliminary surveillance data released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Newborns cannot be tested for Hepatitis C so they must be followed for 18 months until doctors can determine if they've been infected. If left untreated, it can cause liver cancer or scarring of the liver.

Women are increasingly giving birth to children infected with the liver disease hepatitis C, an 89% increase from 2009 to 2014, pediatrics experts reported on Thursday.

The study was published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Health.

West Virginia, which has been ravaged by opioids, had the highest rate at 22.6 per live births.

An influential group of doctors demanded a top-to-bottom change in the way the USA handles addiction. Its ability to be present but not make someone ill underscores the need for expanded programs for prevention and treatment options for people with addiction, said Patrick.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

"The rise in hepatitis C among women of reproductive age and pregnant women parallels this opioid epidemic", said Ward.

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

"I mean probably a third of our clientele know they have hepatitis C. Probably a third more haven't been diagnosed", he said. Not only are baby boomers six times more likely to have the infection compared with other age groups, they are also at increased risk of virus-related death.

People with hepatitis C often have no symptoms, so they are unaware of their infection.

The case, brought on behalf of three state prison inmates who have the disease, alleges that up to 40,000 state inmates could have some form of the disease, which can potentially be spread - not only among the prison population - but to the general public if not treated by the time an inmate is released.

"These programs also help link people to treatments to stop drug use, testing for infectious diseases that can be spread to others, and medical care".

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