FROM: U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION
Increases in Hepatitis C Virus Infection Related to Injection Drug Use Among Persons Aged <30 Years — Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, 2006–2012
Evidence suggests drug injection and prescription opioid abuse are fueling hepatitis C increases in four states east of the Mississippi River. Surveillance data show a national increase in acute hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections from 2006-12, with the largest increases occurring east of the Mississippi River. To better understand the increase in HCV and its correlation to injection drug use, researchers reviewed surveillance data from four states showing a 364 percent increase in cases — Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Virginia — along with drug treatment admissions data. Nearly half (44.8 percent) of HCV cases occurred among people under 30, with a median age of 25. Significant increases in both urban and non-urban areas were found, with more than double the rate of cases occurring in non-urban areas. The majority of those diagnosed were white, and equally as likely to be male as female. Of the cases for which risk data were identified, 73.1 percent reported injecting drugs. Data showed increases in the proportion of persons under 30 admitted for abuse of any opioid (21.1 percent), abuse of prescription opioids (16.8 percent), and injection of any opioid (12.6 percent). While HIV prevalence in this population is currently low in these four states, the regional increase in HCV infections raises concerns about the potential for an increase in HIV infections, as injection drug use is a risk factor for both HIV and HCV. Combined, these findings highlight the need for increased HCV testing, care, and treatment services within substance abuse treatment programs.