Intravenous drug users in many Kentucky counties at high risk of getting HIV or hepatitis C, CDC study shows

CDC imageA preliminary report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified 220 counties in the United States as being most vulnerable to outbreaks of HIV and hepatitis C among those who inject drugs in those communities, and 54 of those counties are in Kentucky.

Kentucky leads the nation in the rate of acute hepatitis C, with 4.1 cases for every 100,000 residents, more than six times the national average, according to the CDC.

“Both HIV and hepatitis C can be transmitted when people who inject drugs share their needles,” Doug Hogan, acting communications director for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said in an e-mail to Kentucky Health News. “Many of Kentucky’s HCV cases are among rural youth, ages 12-29, who have been sharing needles.”

The Kentucky counties that are in the top 10 nationally based on their vulnerability to the rapid spread of HIV and hepatitis C among people who inject drugs are: Wolfe (1st), Breathitt (3rd), Perry (4th), Clay (5th), Bell (6th), Leslie (8th), Knox (9th), and Floyd (10th).

Researchers looked at all 3,143 U.S. counties and based their rankings on six variables: the number of overdose deaths, per-capita-income, unemployment, population studies, prescription opioid sales, and prescription sales for opioid treatments such as buprenorphine. The report points out that this does not mean that HIV or hepatitis C outbreaks are inevitable in these counties, or that there is a current problem with intravenous drug users in these counties, but says that intravenous drug users in these counties are at a higher risk.

Click here to read the CDC report.


Hepatitis C Infections Soaring in Kentucky and Neighboring States, Fueled by Prescription Painkiller Abuse

CDCAccording to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rates of hepatitis C infections more than tripled in Kentucky and three other Appalachian states from 2006 to 2012, fueled by prescription drug abuse among those who inject drugs. Rates of hepatitis C virus infection are rising nationwide, the CDC said, with the biggest increases seen among people under age 30 living in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. In those four states alone, hepatitis C infections rose 364 percent from 2006 to 2012, with nearly half (44.8 percent) among people under age 30.

The agency said the findings highlight the need for testing for hepatitis C, care and treatment services within substance abuse treatment centers, according to a report by the Reuters news service. “We’re in the midst of a national epidemic of hepatitis C,” said John Ward, director of viral hepatitis prevention at the CDC, in a USA Today article. “The CDC views hepatitis C as an urgent public health problem.”

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver infection spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. About 3 million Americans are infected with the Hepatitis C virus, according to the CDC, and many people are infected without knowing it. Chronic infections can cause liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death.