- By Amelia Ferrell Knisely Staff writer Oct 1, 2019
The number of men and women diagnosed in 2018 with the infectious disease soared in the months after the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department closed its public syringe exchange earlier that same year.
Hepatitis C, a virus that can lead to liver cancer or early death if left untreated, is commonly contracted through sharing needles.
New data from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources revealed 1,114 newly reported chronic hepatitis C cases in 2018. It’s the highest number of chronic hepatitis C cases reported in the past five years in West Virginia’s largest county.
“Everyone understands we have a problem, but no one understands just how big the problem is,” said Dr. Letitia Tierney, director of the hepatitis C clinic for Cabin Creek Health Systems.
Tierney emphasized that the area is nearing a hepatitis C outbreak and a potential HIV outbreak, as both viruses can be shared through needles.
Two new HIV cases were confirmed in Kanawha County this summer, according to Angie Settle, executive director of West Virginia Health Right. The nonprofit clinic tested 1,550 “high risk individuals.”
The DHHR did not provide its HIV numbers by Monday’s press time.
“We have a very narrow window of opportunity here to make a significant change,” Tierney said.
TO CONTINUE READING: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/health/hepatitis-c-numbers-soar-in-kanawha-following-syringe-exchange-closure/article_0