Health officials looking into link between Hepatitis C and opioids, encourage testing
State health officials are reminding Delawareans of the importance of testing for Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is a blood-transmitted infection that can lead to liver problems and diseases. Dr. Martin Luta, the chief for Delaware Division of Public Health’s Bureau of Communicable Diseases, said the state’s opioid epidemic could be linked to many cases of the infection.
“You only get it when blood from an infected person finds its way into your body. The only situation where that occurs fairly frequently is when people who use drugs share the needles or other paraphernalia for drug [deployment],” Luta said.
Health officials are looking more into this connection. When a new case comes up, they interview him or her and try to determine how they got the infection in the first place, Luta said.
Almost 2,600 Hepatitis C cases were reported in the First State in 2016. Luta emphasizes the importance of testing, not only because it can help catch some cases early, but also because the cost of treatment is small compared to the cost of managing poor health.
There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, but there is medication a person can take to treat it.
“We should continue spreading the message of testing, not only to reduce the volume of infected individuals out there, but also to link those who may be using illicit drugs to treatment and rehabilitation that are available out there,” Luta said.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C can include fever, loss of appetite, nausea and joint pain.
Luta said it’s more common in the baby-boomer generation. Baby boomers are five times more likely to get Hepatitis C than other adults.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages baby boomers and those who have injected drugs into themselves to get screened for the virus.