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June 7, 2017

Hepatitis C Infection Rate Increasing

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that the U.S. is seeing a significant upward trend in the number of hepatitis C cases reported.

According to the CDC’s press release, the number of new infections reported has almost tripled over the last five years, hitting a 15-year high. They explain that:

“Because hepatitis C has few symptoms, nearly half of people living with the virus don’t know they are infected and the vast majority of new infections go undiagnosed. Further, limited surveillance resources have led to underreporting, meaning the annual number of hepatitis C virus cases reported to CDC (850 cases in 2010 and 2,436 cases in 2015) does not reflect the true scale of the epidemic. CDC estimates about 34,000 new hepatitis C infections actually occurred in the U.S. in 2015.”

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a bloodborne pathogen and a virulent cause of liver disease, and about 10,000 people infected with HCV die each year. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C, but treatment is available.

As the CDC pointed out, chronic HCV patients rarely display symptoms, which include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice

The two most common ways a bloodborne pathogen such as HCV is transmitted are sexual contact and the sharing of hypodermic needles, and the CDC highlights that latter transmission method in this sobering statistic: 

“New hepatitis C virus infections are increasing most rapidly among young people, with the highest overall number of new infections among 20- to 29-year-olds. This is primarily a result of increasing injection drug use associated with America’s growing opioid epidemic.”

An increase in HCV incidents and a growing population of intravenous drug users may prompt employers to add bloodborne pathogen training for their emergency response teams. If your organization has workers required to take BBP emergency care training, HSI offers a number of solutions to help you meet your compliance goals.

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