From a Stanford University online article (March 2, 2020):
“The opioid epidemic has added fuel to the HCV fire, substantially increasing transmission,” said Owens. “HCV is now an enormous public health problem, affecting a much broader age range of people than before. Fortunately, we have the tools to identify people and treatment is now successful in the vast majority of patients, so screening can prevent the mortality and morbidity from HCV.”
A task force of national health experts recommends clinicians screen all adults 18 to 79 for the hepatitis C virus (HCV), noting that the viral infection is now associated with more deaths in the United States than the top 60 reportable infectious diseases combined. Many people are unaware they are carrying the viral infection.
“People with hepatitis C do not always feel sick and may not know they have it,” says chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Douglas K. Owens, M.D, M.S. “Screening is key to finding this infection early, when it’s easier to treat and cure, helping reduce illnesses and deaths.”
Owens, who is the director of Stanford Health Policy and the Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., Professor of Medicine, said the opioid epidemic now plays an important role in the prevalence of HCV. There are more than three times the number of acute HCV cases than a decade ago, particularly among young, white, injection drug users who live in rural areas. Women aged 15 to 44 have also been hit hard by the virus that is spread through contaminated blood.
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