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Hepatitis Health Center

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Signs of Rise in Hepatitis C Cases Among Young

Massachusetts Reports Increase in Hepatitis C in 15- to 24-Year-Olds

Monitoring Hepatitis C continued...

In addition, 445 new cases reported history of drug use via nasal passages.

The CDC says that of the 719 cases linked to injections in the previous year, 615 or 85% were among youths who reported heroin use and 220 (29%) who reported cocaine use.

The hepatitis C virus also was likely spread via other types of exposures, including tattooing. And a history of incarceration also seemed to be a factor.

The researchers say their findings strongly indicate a need for greater surveillance of the spread of hepatitis C, and that education efforts need to target adolescents and young adults.

Who’s Getting Hepatitis C

The Massachusetts data indicate an increase in hepatitis C infections in people 15-24 during the 2002-2009 period, and that “appears to represent an epidemic” that is related to injection drug use in this age group.

The cases studied were mostly of non-Hispanic whites who lived in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Findings suggest that most people 15-24 with a hepatitis C infection contracted it within a few years of being tested.

The researchers express concern that even though an increase in HIV infections were not identified in the 15-24 age group, the hepatitis C findings “might be a harbinger” of increases in injection-linked HIV.

During the same period in which hepatitis C infections were observed, Massachusetts officials also noticed an increase in heroin use among young adults and adolescents.

The authors of the report say the “recent epidemic in reported cases among adolescents and young adults and its apparent association with increases in drug injection and sharing of injection equipment in this population is a disturbing trend.”

They say young people may be more likely to share drug equipment because of the nature of their social networks, which are characterized by trust and sharing. Educational materials targeting these young people ought to be developed to put a damper on risky behaviors, according to the researchers.

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