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article imageHepatitis is a serious side effect of heroin use

By Tim Sandle     Aug 13, 2015 in Health
The number of cases in the U.S., where drug users are contracting hepatitis C, is rising according to new figures presented by health agencies. The immediate solution relates to the supply of clean needles.
The greatest association between incidents of hepatitis C and drug use relates to the injection of the opioid heroin. The number of heroin users throughout the U.S. has risen by around 150 percent between 2007 and 2013.
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease of the liver. The disease is triggered by the hepatitis C virus. There are seven different types (genotypes) of the virus. The disease can cause liver damage, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Last year Karen Graham wrote a good overview of the virus for Digital Journal, which is worth reading. The virus is highly damaging because it is able to attack the mitochondria where it dismantles the innate ability of cells to fight infection.
The type of region where infection currently occurs most often is within rural areas, rather than the big cities. This is thought to be due to the lack of availability of clean needles and the problem of distributing them to drug users. For example, U.S-wide in Washington County, Maine, the number of hepatitis C cases during 2014 was the highest throughout the state. In Washington State itself, drug related hepatitis cases stand at three times the U.S. average.
Further analysis reveals that Maine is experiencing the biggest outbreak of acute hepatitis C since it data collection began around 19990. In Washington County the rate is equivalent to 6 cases per 100,000 residents (compared with a national rate of 0.7 cases per 100,000.)
Other areas with particularly high incidents of drug taking are: Springfield, Missouri; Madison County, Indiana; Massachusetts; and Appalachia. Kentucky.
Based on an interview with Pharmaceutical Pro, Washington, public health program manager Christina Hurst has called for extensions to clean needle exchange programs in order to reduce cases of viral infection.
Similar data relating to hepatitis C infection has been made available in the U.K. Newly released figures show that some 214,000 people are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus in the U.K., with the majority of cases relating to intravenous drug use.
More about Hepatitis C, Heroin, Drug use, Syringe, Injection
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