Data released by the CDC reveals that in 2017 there were an estimated 44,300 new cases of acute hepatitis C. Fueled by the nation’s opioid epidemic, the 7.5 percent increase from the prior year marks the seventh consecutive year that the country has witnessed a rise in new cases of hepatitis C.
“We’ve now experienced a 375 percent increase in new cases since 2010,” commented Frank Hood, Senior Policy Associate at The AIDS Institute. “More than 70 percent of new infections are due to injection drug use, a figure that has been steadily rising. If we want to stop the hepatitis C epidemic, CDC needs resources to expand education, testing, and linkage to hepatitis C cures.”
Historically, most new cases of hepatitis C were among those born between 1945 to 1965, who contracted the virus in a time before testing was available. Recently, however, the rise of the opioid crisis has unfortunately introduced the disease to a new generation and is now the main driver of rising rates. Congress has taken action in the past year to authorize resources for CDC to fight the infectious disease related consequences of the opioid epidemic but has failed to provide full funding to link more people at risk to testing and curative treatment.
CDC’s Viral Hepatitis Division currently only receives $39 million to address nationwide all forms of viral hepatitis. The House has proposed to increase that level to $50 million for next year and we are awaiting the release of the Senate’s spending bill.
“Hepatitis C can be cured, and we can end the epidemic in our lifetimes,” continued Hood. “With data showing that the crisis is worsening, we are calling upon the Administration and the Congress to commit the necessary resources until hepatitis C is eliminated in the country.”