CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – West Virginia Health Department data reveals hepatitis C cases in the state’s largest county have soared to the highest numbers in years, months after a program offering clean needles was suspended.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported Monday that more than 1,100 new chronic cases of the disease were recorded in Kanawha County in 2018.
Local clinic director Letitia Tierney says the area is nearing a hepatitis C outbreak and a potential HIV outbreak due to needle sharing. Officials didn’t immediately release HIV numbers.
The county suspended its free needle exchange program in March 2018 after Charleston police said they’d be enacting tighter regulations.
The program had been credited with helping reduce hepatitis C cases.
County health official Janet Briscoe said some new cases could include residents who had the disease before their 2018 diagnosis.