The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an alert to public health departments and clinicians nationwide to be vigilant for HIV outbreaks similar to Indiana’s, while warning of overlapping hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission among injection drug users (IDUs). The CDC issued the health advisory at the same time as it published an account of the Indiana outbreak in its April 24 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Nationally, acute hep C infections rose 150 percent between 2010 and 2013 as an epidemic of addiction to opioid painkillers has swept the country, the use of which has often led people to inject heroin as a cheaper or more readily available alternative to the prescription drugs. The Indiana HIV outbreak is related to injection of the opiate Opana (oxymorphone).

The CDC recommends that clinicians and health departments remain vigilant for emerging HIV and hep C as a result of injection drug use, and to use contact tracing after someone tests positive to look for other people infected with either virus. Regular testing is recommended for those at risk. For IDUs, the CDC stresses the importance of access to drug treatment, opioid replacement therapy, counseling on safe injection methods, and access to sterile injection equipment.

HIV-negative IDUs should be given the option of taking Truvada (tenofovir/emtricitabine) as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). If they have possibly been exposed to HIV within the past 72 hours they should be given the option to take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

Physicians are advised to report suspected new clusters of either virus to their state or local health departments.

To read the CDC advisory, click here.

To read the CDC’s MMWR report, click here.