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Reuters Health Information (2011-05-05): Hepatitis C cases on rise among Massachusetts youth


Hepatitis C cases on rise among Massachusetts youth

Last Updated: 2011-05-05 18:30:14 -0400 (Reuters Health)

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Hepatitis C infections are rising quickly among white youth in Massachusetts, fueled by increases in the use of heroin and other injection drugs, local and federal health researchers said Thursday.

Cases of the infection have been dropping across the general population, but they started rising in youth aged 15 to 24 between 2002 and 2006, a trend that continued through 2009, a team from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported.

"Of cases with available risk data, injection drug use was the most common risk factor for HCV transmission," the team wrote in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"The increase in case reports appears to represent an epidemic of HCV infection related to IDU (injected drug use) among new populations of adolescents and young adults in Massachusetts," they wrote.

The CDC said in an editorial it has been documenting cases of hepatitis C infection for decades, but it called the recent epidemic among adolescents and young adults and its apparent link to IV drug use "a disturbing trend."

"Law enforcement data suggest this trend might be occurring in other states," the CDC said, citing data showing increases in first-time heroin use, which jumped to 180,000 in 2009 from 100,000 in 2002.

Law enforcement reports from officials in the Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, New England, New York/New Jersey, Southeast, and West Central regions also suggests that heroin use is increasing, particularly among younger users.

The latest cases were reported from across Massachusetts, mostly among non-Hispanic whites, and were split evenly between males and females.

Of 1,196 cases in which doctors had a history of potential risk factors, 72% were in people who reported current or past injection drug use.

Among the 719 people who said they injected drugs in the preceding 12 months, 85% said they had used heroin, 29% had used cocaine, 1% had used methamphetamine and 4% had used other drugs.

The researchers said the study suggested the need for better monitoring of hepatitis C infection and better prevention efforts targeting adolescents and young adults.


MMWR 2011.

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