State Health Officials See Spike In Hepatitis C Cases

Rise Coincides With Growing Heroin Use Among Younger Adults

Thomas Mathisen (CC-BY-NC-SA)

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is seeing new cases of Hepatitis C among people under 30, a trend that mirrors a similar rise in heroin use among that age group.

The number of Hepatitis C cases reported for people under 30 is almost five times higher than it was roughly a decade ago, rising from 160 cases to 710 during that timespan.

“The trends of hepatitis C in young people and heroin overdoses and deaths are rising,” said Sheila Guilfoyle, the viral hepatitis prevention coordinator with the state DHS.

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Guilfoyle said they want people to be aware they can get Hepatitis C through injecting drugs like heroin and are encouraging people to get tested.

Bill Keeton with the Aids Resource Center of Wisconsin said they tested 61 people in Douglas County for Hepatitis C last year.

“When folks are either injecting drugs and then sharing needles … that’s a pretty significant Hepatitis C risk,” he said.

Keeton said they exchanged 140,000 needles in Superior last year — almost double the number exchanged four years ago.

The number of heroin-related deaths grew from 67 to 187 from 2008 to 2012, according to most recent figures from the DHS.

In Superior, police responded to six heroin overdoses just in the last week of February.