Prescription painkiller abuse is largely to blame for a big increase in the rate of hepatitis C among young people in rural areas of four states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Acute hepatitis C infections more than tripled from 2007 to 2012 among young people in rural areas in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. About 73 percent of those hepatitis C patients said they injected drugs, USA Today reports. Injecting drugs can spread the hepatitis C virus when people share needles.
“We’re in the midst of a national epidemic of hepatitis C,” said John Ward, Director of Viral Hepatitis Prevention at the CDC. More than 20,000 Americans die from hepatitis C a year, which is more than the number who die from AIDS, Ward said. He added, “The CDC views hepatitis C as an urgent public health problem.”