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States blame hep C cases for increased opioid abuse

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Hepatitis C infections are soaring in 4 states because of high rates of opioid abuse, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Hepatitis C infections are soaring in 4 states because of high rates of opioid abuse, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, new hepatitis cases among people aged 30 years and younger rose from 1.25 per 100,000 in 2006 people to four per 100,000 in 2012, the CDC found in the May 8 issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

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“The concomitant increase in the proportion of treatment admissions for prescription opioid abuse, heroin abuse, and the number of admitted patients who report injecting suggests that the increase in acute HCV infections in central Appalachia is highly correlated with the region's epidemic of prescription opioid abuse and facilitated by an upsurge in the number of persons who inject drugs in these four states,” CDC researchers wrote.

Related: Drop in opioid Rx, overdoses linked to pharmacy changes

A majority (73%) of the hepatitis C patients said they injected drugs, which can spread the virus. "We're in the midst of a national epidemic of hepatitis C," John Ward, director of viral hepatitis prevention at the CDC, told USA Today. More than 20,000 Americans die from hepatitis C a year, which is more than the number who die from AIDS, according to Ward.

The rate of new hepatitis C infections rose from 0.3 cases per 100,000 people in 2010 to 0.7 cases in 2013. In 2013, Kentucky had the highest rate of infections, with 5.1 cases per 100,000, according to the CDC.

Related: New hep C drugs will strain the system: MD Anderson study

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