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Appalachian Ohio's High Hepatitis C Rates Blamed On Opioid Epidemic

A jug of used needles to exchange in Camden, N.J., on Oct. 29, 2015.
Mel Evans
Associated Press
A jug of used needles to exchange in Camden, N.J., on Oct. 29, 2015.

A new study blames the opioid epidemic for high rates of Hepatitis C in Ohio’s Appalachia region. Ohio University researchers led a team of health professionals to examine the spread of the disease.

The blood-borne virus infects the liver, and sharing needles is the most common way for the virus to spread.

Researcher Orman Hall says the study looked at data from 2014-2018.

“A cluster of counties in southeastern Ohio over the five-year period had consistently higher rates of Hepatitis C than any other counties in the state of Ohio,” says Hall.

However, Hall says that the number of people infected with Hepatitis C peaked at 296 per 100,000 people. In 2018, that rate dropped to 249 per 100,000.

“The good news is that in all five regions of our state, we saw declines in Hepatitis C incidents that started in 2017 and continued in 2018,” Hall says.

Hall says the continued rates of drug abuse mean those numbers could rise again.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.