Hepatitis C Infection Rates High Among Injection Drug Users
Twenty-seven percent of injection drug users in the Chicago area are infected with hepatitis C, according to a new study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. The study also found that the risk of infection increases with the frequency and length of drug use. Reuters Health reports that drug users who had been injecting drugs for between one and four years had a three times greater chance of becoming infected than those who had been injecting for less than one year, and those injecting drugs for more than four years were "10 times as likely to be infected." Furthermore, drug users who inject daily are three times as likely to be infected as those who use drugs less frequently. Whites and Hispanics were more likely to be infected than African Americans. Dr. Lorna Thorpe, who conducted the research at the University of Illinois, and colleagues at the CDC wrote, "In our experience, most young injection drug users are, at best, vaguely aware of the risk for hepatitis C infection, but they are motivated to avoid infection as awareness increases." The authors concluded that "[p]revention efforts should target both urban and suburban populations, should focus on reducing risky injection practices, and should include educational and motivational components, risk-reduction materials, drug-treatment programs tailored to the needs of young injection drug users, and promotion of hepatitis A and B vaccination" (Reuters Health, 12/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.