Opioid crisis leading to massive spike in hepatitis C cases — CDC

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Even scarier? The CDC estimates that rates are actually much higher-about 34,000 new infections a year-and that many people don't know they have it.

John Ward, director of the CDC's division of viral hepatitis, said: "We have a cure for this disease and the tools to prevent new infections". Symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, joint pain and jaundice. Those individuals aged 20 to 29 account for the "highest overall number of new infections" reported in the surveillance data. Why? Rates were three times as high in rural areas of the state compared to urban counties, according to the study. Rural areas in other states are also experiencing a similar, though smaller rise in new hepatitis C cases.

While Utah, Maine, and Nevada had the most comprehensive laws related to the prevention of hepatitis C, 18 states had the least comprehensive laws relating to hepatitis C prevention.

In 2015, it found HCV rates in 17 states exceeded the national average.

Hepatitis C is characterized by a viral infection that causes liver inflammation, often ending up in serious liver damage. Hepatitis C rates continue to rise, even since 2014, when Northern Kentucky's rate beat the nation's by almost 20 percentage points.

The bloodborne virus is transmitted by injection drug use, dirty needles, blood transfusions and sex.

However, it is not only drug users that can be infected.

"They also realize that needle exchange programs are on the front lines and are able to deal with people that might be at risk for an opioid overdose", Stokes said.

The report also looks at whether states permit the retail sale of syringes without a prescription.

Twenty-four states had policies that require some period of sobriety to receive HCV treatment through Medicaid, potentially limiting access to cures, compared with 16 states without such restrictions.

In particular, the CDC says some of the best ways to combat its spread are ways to boost access to clean needles - such as syringe exchange programs and decriminalization of the possession of paraphernalia.

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The presence of Hepatitis C at birth increased 89 percent to 3.4 per 1,000 live births from 2009 to 2014.

Three-quarters of the 3.5 million Americans infected with hepatitis C are baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965. Anyone whose blood has come into contact with the blood of someone infected with the hepatitis C virus, could be at risk.

'We need to build systems of care to ensure that all infants exposed to the virus are adequately followed, ' Patrick said.

"It continues to call for public health approach", Patrick said.

Researchers found notable increases in West Virginia as well as in rural counties of Tennessee.

While there are medications that can resolve hepatitis C infections, they are not approved for pregnant women or children at this point.

The opioid epidemic sweeping the country is being blamed by experts for a significant increase in the number of pregnant women with hepatitis C.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed the nation's drug problem recently when he said, "I really believe this epidemic of opioid abuse is a crisis, it's ravaging our communities". "We suspect this is highly linked to the opioid epidemic".

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.

Stop injecting drugs if you possibly can.

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