Incidence of acute
hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection increased significantly among young,
non-urban people who inject drugs in the United States between 2006 and 2012,
investigators report in the online edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
“The incidence of
reported acute hepatitis C among young persons has significantly increased
during 2006-12, with annual increases over two times greater in non-urban
compared to urban jurisdictions,” write the authors. “Reported incidence was
greater in 2012 than 2006 in at least 30 states, most notably in non-urban
jurisdictions east of the Mississippi River in or nearby Appalachian counties.”
The authors call for a comprehensive plan to tackle this “worrisome” emergent
HCV now surpasses
HIV as a cause of death in the US. Incidence of acute HCV infection was
before 2003 but has been increasing since 2006, especially among younger
(under 30 years of age) who inject drugs. Data from individual states
that there are emergent HCV epidemics among younger non-urban people who
inject drugs, with the infections linked to the injecting of
High rates of injection drug use, little access to intervention
services and tight-knit social circles have created a perfect storm for
the spread of the hepatitis C virus in Appalachia.
University of Kentucky researchers have tracked
cases of this highly infective virus in Appalachian drug users, with
evidence that most new cases are affecting people under the age of 25.
Since 2008, a research team led by Dr. Jennifer Havens, an
epidemiologist in the University of Kentucky Center for Drug and Alcohol
Research, has conducted routine testing and interviews with 500 drug
users in Perry County. The goal of the study is to gain a better
understanding the social and behavioral risk factors that contribute to
the area’s prevalence of hepatitis C, and ultimately use the knowledge
to develop interventions aimed at curbing the spread of the disease.
Every six months, participants in the study engage in live interviews
regarding drug use behaviors, sexual activity and social networks. In
addition, researchers test participants for hepatitis C (HCV), herpes
simplex II (HSV-2) and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The study has retained 95 percent of participants through five years,
allowing the researchers to map support networks, drug use networks and
sexual networks, as well as identify systemic changes in the drug use
community. The researchers are also interested in monitoring the
population for cases of HIV, a disease that has not yet been detected in
the population but would transmit quickly if introduced.