Oct 19, 2017

The Hepatitis C epidemic following the opioid crisis

Cases of Hepatitis C have almost tripled in the past few years, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention — an effect of the opioid crisis and the unsanitary use of needles by drug users. There were 2,436 reported cases of the liver disease in 2015, up from 853 cases in 2010.

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Data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios

Why it matters: Hepatitis C can be deadly if not treated, and treatment can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Americans will be paying for the opioid crisis for years to come, with the total tab coming to an estimated $100 billion.

"If we don't cure a significant number of the people who are injecting, in 20 years from now, the hospitals in this part of the world will be flooded with these people with end-stage liver disease, which has no cure," Judith Feinberg, professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, told the Washington Post.

Political solutions: There have been some state and local efforts to establish "syringe exchanges," which offer drug users clean syringes as a way to prevent the spread of Hepatitis C. These controversial programs are now legal in some states like North Carolina, New Hampshire and Vermont, but have recently been shut down in counties in Utah and Indiana.

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