The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 3 million people nationally have hepatitis C, which caused more than 15,000 deaths in 2013, the most recent year reported.
An epidemic affecting young intravenous drug users across the country, particularly in Appalachia, where opiate abuse exploded in the late 1990s has not subsided. And that has health officials concerned, not just because the hepatitis C virus can lead to liver failure, cancer and sometimes death, but because its spread can foretell another deadly disease: HIV, which can also be transmitted by shared needles.
In May, the CDC reported a sharp increase in reported cases of hepatitis C among young adults in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. While rates of acute hepatitis C, which is very costly to treat, have risen around the country, Kentucky’s rate was more than seven times higher than the national average.
And these numbers most likely do not even begin to capture the problem, according to the CDC, which estimates only one in every 10 cases gets reported, partly because people with hepatitis often have no symptoms.
A needle exchange program, designed to combat the spread of blood-borne diseases, began in early September of this year, taking used needles and distributing clean ones at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.
The goal, according to Lexington’s Health Commissioner Dr. Rice Leach, is to stop the spread of hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV – all of which are transmitted by needles.
Dr. Leach will join Lexington Police Chief Mark Barnard, and Bluegrass.Org Director of Substance Abuse Services, Michele McCarthy, in a discussion of the public health, law enforcement, and treatment perspectives of the needle exchange program.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Hilary J. Boone Center – UK’s Campus
7:15 Coffee and Networking
7:30 Breakfast and Program
Free to Members / Guest Fee $20
Please RSVP by noon on Tuesday November 2, 2015