The incredible scientific advances leading to the development of numerous choices in highly effective hepatitis C medications should mean a plummeting of the number of Americans with this life threatening disease. It’s now known how this disease is spread, what it does to the liver, and – most importantly – how to cure it for the vast majority of cases. So what’s the problem?
According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the incidence rate for hepatitis C is now at a 15-year high. Even more alarming than that: in the most recent five-year period, new cases of hepatitis C are triple what they were previously. The opioid epidemic is fueling this disease spread, since the hepatitis C virus spreads fast with unsterile injection drug use. The key risk factor for being infected with the hepatitis C virus, in 73% of new infections today, is injection drug use. Sadly, contaminated blood is the most efficient mode of transmission for this virus, making injection drug use very risky.
New cases of hepatitis C are highest in those in their 20s, although Baby Boomers continue to have the greatest total number of cases (with most of these people being infected many years ago, some even decades).
It’s disheartening to see the finish line of eradicating this liver disease move further away just as it came into sight. The health care messaging now needs to bring into sharper focus the ways to prevent this disease; with the goal of turning the tide on rising infections.
Waknine Y. CDC: HCV incidence rates rise 300% over 5-y span. Univadis May 15, 2017.