Climbing cases of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in Northern Kentucky have officially put the region’s rate of new infections at nearly 10 times the U.S. average—and almost triple that of the rest of Kentucky, reports.

Kentucky health officials attribute the growing list of new infections to the increasing number of new heroin injectors who have emerged after the state cut down on the supply of painkillers.

Officials say they’ve seen an 80 percent increase of hepatitis C in the region from 2010 to 2013, with nearly 81 percent of newly infected patients reporting a past history of intravenous drug use. Many of those tested also reported having multiple sex partners and getting tattoos from unlicensed artists, which are also risk factors for the disease.

The cases were uncovered by a free hep C testing program started in the region in May 2012. State health officials say the initiative has screened 2,157 people for the liver disease, with 264, or 12 percent, of tests coming back positive and chronic. Most of the people have been in their mid-20s, and gender has not seemed to be a factor in who contracted the virus.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department says it is now looking for grant funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help pay for new hepatitis C treatments.

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