West Virginia health data reveals surge in hepatitis C cases

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ST. JOHNSBURY, VT – FEBRUARY 06: Used syringes are viewed at a needle exchange clinic where users can pick up new syringes and other clean items for those dependent on heroin on February 6, 2014 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin recently devoted his entire State of the State speech to the scourge of heroin. Heroin and other opiates have begun to devastate many communities in the Northeast and Midwest leading to a surge in fatal overdoses in a number of states. As prescription painkillers, such as the synthetic opiate OxyContin, become increasingly expensive and regulated, more and more Americans are turning to heroin to fight pain or to get high. Heroin, which has experienced a surge in production in places such as Afghanistan and parts of Central America, has a relatively inexpensive street price and provides a more powerful affect on the user. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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.

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