Submitted on Mon, 2015-05-18
By SMART Health Claims

In recognition of Hepatitis Awareness Month this May, we want to shine some light on the aggressive outbreak of this virus.

Hepatitis C infections have increased 150 percent in the United States over the last four years, illustrated recently by an HIV/hepatitis C outbreak in a rural Indiana county.  
 

A Growing Problem

Linked to intravenous drug use, hepatitis C infections are on the rise nationally.  There is no better example of this growing problem than in Indiana where the CDC recently issued an alert warning about the epidemic.

Since December, the state of Indiana has recorded the diagnosis of 142 people with HIV - 85% of which were also infected with hepatitis C - prompting other states to closely track rates for both viruses to identify potential clusters of the disease.
 

“The CDC says injectable drug users with HIV have a high chance of also being infected with hepatitis C. The agency recorded a 150 percent increase in acute hepatitis C cases from 2010 to 2013. Health officials say four of five people infected in the Indiana HIV outbreak have acknowledged using injectable drugs, mostly the painkiller Opana.”

-        Associated Press, Indiana HIV outbreak, hepatitis C epidemic sparks CDC alert


In addition to Indiana, the CDC reported a nationwide increase in reported cases of hepatitis C in central Appalachian states from 2006-2012. Those infected were recorded as under the age of thirty, from nonurban areas and the risk factors were largely contributed (73%) to intravenous drug use. 

Source: CDC, http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/C/cFAQ.htm

Here are some facts you should know about Hepatitis C:

  • In 2012, there were an estimated 21,870 cases of acute hepatitis C virus infections reported in the United States.
  • An estimated 3.2 million persons in the United States have chronic hepatitis C virus infection. Most people do not know they are infected because they don’t look or feel sick. 
  • The CDC estimates about one-quarter of HIV-infected persons in the United States are also infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV may also impact the course and management of HIV infection.
  • Coinfection with HIV and HCV is common (50%–90%) among HIV-infected injection drug users.
  • HCV is one of the most important causes of chronic liver disease in the United States and HCV infection progresses more rapidly to liver damage in HIV-infected persons.
  • Approximately 75%–85% of people who become infected with hepatitis C virus develop chronic infection.

  Source: The U.S. Public Health Service/Infectious Diseases Society of America

How Local Health Departments Can Prepare

You can learn more about hepatitis C with the launch of The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) educational series, "Hepatitis C Virus: An Overview and Introduction to the Role of Local Health Departments."

The CDC released a health advisory that outlines the steps that state health departments and medical providers can take to minimize the risk of more severe outbreaks.  

On a local level, health departments can further the work of Hepatitis Awareness Month advocates by educating themselves about the growing impact of the disease.   If your organization unprepared to bill for hepatitis vaccination programs and health services, contact one of our public health billing experts so you have the revenue to continue providing these vital health services to your community. 

For more information about Hepatitis Awareness Month please visit http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HepAwarenessMonth.htm.

 

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