Hepatitis C infections skyrocket; CDC report blames opioid epidemic

Hepatitis C infection rate nearly tripled in the U.S. from 2010 to 2015, and the opioid epidemic is largely to blame, according to data released by the CDC Friday during Hepatitis Awareness Month.

The 294 percent spike in hepatitis C infections from 2010 to 2015 is "largely attributed to injection drug use," like the increased use of heroin, according to the researchers.

State lawmakers could have the power to reverse this trend, the researchers wrote.

"To promote HCV prevention, state laws can facilitate access to clean injection equipment and other services for persons who inject drugs, and thereby be an effective tool to reduce the risk for transmission and stop the increasing incidence of HCV infection in communities, particularly those most affected by the nation's current opioid epidemic," according to the report.

For instance, the three states with the most comprehensive laws related HCV prevention (Massachusetts, New Mexico and Washington) allowed for syringe exchange, did not classify syringes and needles as drug paraphernalia and also allowed for the retail sale of syringes to drug users.

Additionally, a change in Medicaid policies could limit the spread of hepatitis C. Some states' Medicaid policies have strict sobriety requirements, which can limit access to the treatment that can cure the infection.

More articles on the opioid epidemic:
Opioid epidemic: 5 things to know about 'gray death'
Researchers identify tools to protect first responders from fentanyl exposure
Drug users increasingly injecting in hospital bathrooms: What hospitals are and aren't doing about it

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