According to CDC (the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention) has announced that new cases of Hepatitis C grew by up to 364% in the Appalachian states including Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. CDC is on alert and says that this could be one of the worst outbreaks in the US HCV history.
The report released by CDC says that the main cause for the disease is the use of intravenous drugs in 73% of the cases. In addition in the case of four states the emergency room admission for opioid addiction increased by 21.1%. A notable increase was also reported in the case of persons who have injected drugs. The percentage reached 12.6%.
The report says that if the percentages are taken together they suggest a geographical intersection between HCV infection, drug injecting and opioid use in central Appalachia. As a consequence this draws attention to the fact that there is need of integrated health services in drug abuse treatment in order to prevent HCV infection and to offer medical care to those who are infected.
The outbreak is mainly spread among white drug users. Patton Couch is a patient who in spite of the fact that he knew the risks he continued to inject himself using a needle which had already used by other people in the room. He confessed that the only thing on his mind was to get the drug as sooner and faster as possible. He said that it was miserable and he hated himself. Nevertheless he explained that when you are under the influence of drugs the only thing one can think of as an escape is to consume the drug one more time.
Sue Yates monitors drug programs for addicts in order to help them recover through treatment and not spend time in prison. She said that the way of thinking must be changed. People must open their minds and come up with option about needle exchange. According to her this is better than doing nothing. Tammy Brooks, who was a former drug addict and supports needle exchange programs, remarks:
“If you knew your child was going to get in the neighbor’s pool, wouldn’t you want them to know how to swim? You wouldn’t just say ‘don’t get in the pool.’
Karen Cooper, the Kentucky River District Health Department director is concerned that people exchange needles because they fear that they will be exposed. At present Kentucky faces the highest rates of Hepatitis C: 4.1 cases for 100.000 individuals. According to CDC this is six times the national count.