A new report released Thursday by the CDC revealed very worrisome numbers. New hepatitis C virus infections in the United States nearly tripled between the years 2010 and 2015. According to the report, “HCV is the most common form of viral hepatitis in the United States and in 2013, accounted for approximately 19,000 deaths per year, a number that was greater than that of 60 other nationally notifiable infectious diseases combined (1). During 2010–2015, HCV incidence increased by 294% with the highest rates among young persons who inject drugs (PWID).”
The agency estimates that there are estimated 3.5 million people, mostly baby boomers, in the United States currently have an infection with hepatitis C, which damages the liver. Symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, joint pain and jaundice. According to CNN, the agency reported a record number of fatalities from the virus occurred in 2014.
"Recent CDC research has identified increasing injection drug use — tied to the US opioid epidemic — in rural and suburban areas across the country," said Dr. John Ward, an author of the new report and director of the division of viral hepatitis at the CDC.
CDC research also reveals the seven states where the opioid epidemic hit the hardest.
Seven states – Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Tennessee and West Virginia – have rates at least twice the national average.
Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD), AbbVie Inc. (NYSE: ABBV) and other pharmaceuticals have treatments for hepatitis C with a cure rate of 95%, but the medications are very expansive, and as the CNN report points out, at least 24 states require proof of sobriety to receive available treatments through Medicaid. To reduce the number of deaths related to hepatitis C the CDC recommends making clean syringes available and ridding of the Medicaid restrictions, as well as formulating preventative laws.