An upswing in opioid dependency and in the rate of people reporting injection drug use in four central Appalachian states has occurred in tandem with a rising hepatitis C virus (HCV) incidence, MedPage Today reports. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials partnered with the health departments of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia to analyze hep C surveillance data and information about drug treatment admissions in these states between 2006 and 2012. They reported their findings in the May 8 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Over the seven-year period, 1,377 cases of acute hep C were reported to the CDC in these states. About 45 percent of the cases were in people age 30 and under. The median age was 25, and new infections were about evenly split between men and women.

Over the course of the study the hep C incidence rate increased 3.64-fold.

Non-urban counties saw about double the rate of hep C when compared with the rate in urban areas.

Among those in both urban and non-urban areas who had an identified risk factor for hep C, 73.1 percent said they used injection drugs.

During the study period, drug treatment admissions for people between the ages of 12 and 29 increased 21.1 percent. Meanwhile, the proportion of such admissions related to opioid injection increased 12.6 percent.

The researchers concluded that there is a strong link between increases in the injection of opioids and hep C rates.

Out of the recent outbreak of 140 cases of HIV in Indiana, 80 percent have been linked to injection drugs. Three-quarters of the individuals are coinfected with HCV.

To read the MedPage Today article, click here.

To read the CDC report, click here.