Drug use Increasing Hepatitis Cases

By: Mon Health
July 07, 2016
Needle sharing during illegal drug use is increasing the number of Hepatitis B and C infections in West Virginia.

Hepatitis is a disease caused by a virus that infects the liver. Without treatment, Hepatitis B and C can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure. Although the disease can be serious, with treatment, most people can manage the disease and maintain their quality of life.

How do you contract hepatitis B?

  • Sexual contact. You may become infected if you have unprotected sex with an infected partner whose blood, saliva, semen or vaginal secretions enter your body.

  • Sharing of needles. HBV is easily transmitted through needles and syringes contaminated with infected blood. Sharing intravenous (IV) drug paraphernalia puts you at high risk of hepatitis B.

  • Accidental needle sticks. Hepatitis B is a concern for health care workers and anyone else who comes in contact with human blood.

  • Mother to child. Pregnant women infected with HBV can pass the virus to their babies during childbirth. However, the newborn can be vaccinated to avoid getting infected in almost all cases. Talk to your doctor about being tested for hepatitis B if you are pregnant or want to become pregnant.

How do you contract hepatitis C?
  • Needle sharing while injecting illegal drugs is the most common way to contract hepatitis C in the United States.

  • Getting a tattoo or piercing with a needle that is contaminated with infected blood.

  • Receiving a shot with an infected needle. This is more common in developing countries where needles may be used more than once.

  • A blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992. After 1992, all blood and organs are screened for the virus.

Faisal A. Bukeirat, MD, a Mon General Hospital interventional endoscopist, said if the patient is a good candidate, new drugs are available to cure Hepatitis C.

“It’s a one-shot opportunity,” Dr. Bukeirat said. “I won’t prescribe the treatment to someone who is still using drugs. The person must be clean before starting the treatment. And he or she must remain clean after receiving treatment.” 
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