As if America’s opioid crisis wasn’t bad enough. Now, apparently, it has created yet another ripple effect across the country, with a visible rise in Hepatitis C cases. According to recent statistics, the United States’ overall rate of infections has more than doubled in the past decade. Even worse, there has has been a 300 to 400 percent jump among citizens under the age of 40.
For those unaware, Hep C is an infectious disease that primarily affects the liver. It has been commonly linked to cirrhosis and other debilitating diseases (such as cancer). It tends to be contracted through shared needles, which is where the opioid/heroin link comes in.
As mentioned above, the younger population has been credited for the Hep C uptick. Interestingly enough, research pulled from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that American women were also being infected at a higher rate. Additionally, there were “statistically significant” increases among the U.S. Hispanic and minority populations within the past 10 years.
CDC rep Jon Zibbell told Knox News that there was definitive evidence linking these numbers to the opioid crisis.
“At the time, Hepatitis C wasn’t being talked about as part of the opioid epidemic,” Zibbell told the outlet. “But this new data is really kind of a game changer.”
And as the crisis gets worse, Zibbell predicts that more cases will continue to emerge. One of the primary sources of Hep C infections are contaminated needles. Those in the grips of opioid or heroin dependencies are prime culprits of this, craving a high so bad that they’re willing to share syringes with fellow addicts.
Knox News also touched on another important point in their article. Issues like this most certainly affect America at large. For the majority of citizens who turn a blind eye and feel this epidemic doesn’t concern them, it’s time to think again. Zibbell went on to say that these Hep C issues will create “a big burden for the country’s health care system in terms of cost and manpower.” Something like that impacts everyone, via tax increases and doctor availability. There are also public health concerns, with the risk of outbreaks and contamination outside of the drug using community.
The good news is that Hepatitis C is curable, but doing so requires consistent treatment and a healthy lifestyle. With the direction the opioid crisis is heading in 2018, that sounds like a considerable challenge.