Cases of Hepatitis C & heroin use rising - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Cases of Hepatitis C & heroin use rising

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Heroin seized in a recent drug bust. Heroin seized in a recent drug bust.
Dr. Bennet Cecil Dr. Bennet Cecil
Dr. Laquandra Nesbitt Dr. Laquandra Nesbitt
Keith Henderson Keith Henderson

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Federal health agencies are calling it an emerging epidemic. Hepatitis C is now attacking a much younger crowd.

"We've always thought that the Hepatitis C epidemic was something that had already peaked," said Dr. Bennet Cecil of the Hepatitis C Treatment Center in Louisville. "But now we're seeing all these patients, young patients who are getting infected from injecting heroin."

The most common risk factor for the disease - injection drug use - is also on the rise thanks to heroin.

"Even though still dealing with prescriptions, but now the emphasis has turned to heroin," said Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson during November 19 press conference after 22 people were arrested during a heroin raid.

Kentucky now ranks as the state with the most cases of HCV in the country according to the Centers for Disease & Control.

"It's difficult to determine if that's a result of increase testing which has been a huge push, at the national stage and local level, as well as increase reporting," said Dr. Laquandra Nesbitt, director of Louisville Metro Health and Wellness.

New CDC studies have found a rise in infection among young heroin users. The latest stats show almost 4 million people in the U.S. are chronically infected. The disease can take decades to attack the liver causing cirrhosis.

"Then they start getting liver cancer, liver failure and when that happens, they die," Cecil said.

Since 2007, more people have died from HCV than from HIV. That's according to the CDC who has just released a plan to try to stop the spread.

The CDC is in to start using social media to help get the message out about the disease before more people turn to heroin.

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