Hepatitis C Infection Rates Soaring Over Past Five Years

Many infections stemmed from rising use of injected drugs linked to the current opioid epidemic, officials say.
Many infections stemmed from rising use of injected drugs linked to the current opioid epidemic, officials say.

HealthDay News -- According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports of new hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in the United States nearly tripled over 5 years, reaching a 15-year high.

The number of reported cases rose from 850 in 2010 to 2436 in 2015. However, nearly half of people who have the liver infection don't know it, so most new cases are never reported. 

The CDC estimates there were actually about 34,000 new HCV infections nationwide in 2015. 

The highest number of new infections were reported among 20- to 29-year-olds. Many stemmed from the growing use of injected drugs linked to the current opioid epidemic, CDC officials said.

Nearly 20,000 Americans died from HCV-related causes in 2015, and most were age 55 and older, according to the new report. Three-quarters of the 3.5 million Americans infected with HCV are baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965. 

They are 6 times more likely to be infected than people in other age groups and have a much higher risk of death from the virus, the CDC said. Recent CDC studies also show that HCV infections are rising among women of childbearing age, putting a new generation at risk.

"We must reach the hardest-hit communities with a range of prevention and treatment services that can diagnose people with hepatitis C and link them to treatment. This wide range of services can also prevent the misuse of prescription drugs and ultimately stop drug use -- which can also prevent others from getting hepatitis C in the first place," Jonathan Mermin, MD, director of the agency's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in a CDC news release.

Reference

New Hepatitis C Infections Nearly Tripled over Five Years [press release]. Atlanta, GA: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; May 11, 2017.

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