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New Hepatitis C Infections Reach 15-Year High

Reports of new hepatitis C infections in the United States nearly tripled over five years, reaching a 15-year high, according to federal government data.
The highest number of new infections were found among 20- to 29-year-olds, with many stemming from the growing use of injected drugs linked to the current opioid crisis.
The number of reported cases jumped from 850 in 2010 to 2,436 in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But because almost 50 percent of people who have hepatitis C don’t know they have it, most new cases aren’t reported. So the CDC estimates there actually were about 34,000 new hepatitis C infections nationwide in 2015.
“We must reach the hardest-hit communities with a range of prevention and treatment services that can diagnose people with hepatitis C and link them to treatment,” said Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. “This wide range of services can also prevent the misuse of prescription drugs and ultimately stop drug use—which can also prevent others from getting hepatitis C in the first place.”
The virus, spread by sharing drugs and needles, the stick of a contaminated needle, through sex and to babies born to an infected mother, kills more Americans than any other infectious disease, including HIV. Nearly 20,000 Americans died from hepatitis C-related causes in 2015, according to the new report.
Three-quarters of the 3.5 million Americans infected with hepatitis C are baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965. They are six times more likely to be infected than people in other age groups and have a much higher risk of death from the virus. Other CDC studies also show hepatitis C infections are rising among women of childbearing age. African Americans have the highest rates of hepatitis C, as well as substantially higher rates of hep C-related deaths.

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