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Hepatitis C Rates Rise Among Johnson County Young Adults

While the Johnson County health department now says cases of whooping cough are on the decline in the region, health officials have noted a rise in another disease in area young adults: Hepatitis C.

The county health department’s latest EPI update featured the above chart, which shows that since 2007, Hepatitis C rates for those ages 20-29 have risen from about 24 out of 100,000 to about 54 out of 100,000. The data came from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that’s transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. Nationwide, more than 3 million people are chronically infected. Most don't realize it because symptoms can take years, even decades to show up. Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cirrhosis and liver transplants. According to the Johnson County Health Department, the following people may be at risk:

Individuals with a history of blood transfusions and organ transplants before 1992 and those who share contaminated needles when injecting drugs or getting tattoos or piercings are at an increased risk for infection. Other high risk individuals include: having received clotting factor concentrates produced before 1987; having been on long-term dialysis; and having signs and symptoms of liver disease (e.g., abnormal ALT) and children born to mothers infected with HCV.

Hepatitis C is most common among baby boomers. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a call for all people in that age group to get tested.

But Hepatitis C has also cropped up in young people in another part of the country. Rural Wisconsin recently noted an uptick among people under the age of 30. Researchers there found that the situation appeared, in part, to be tied to injection drug use. Sharing of contaminated equipment can be a risk for spreading the virus.

A spokesperson with the Johnson County health department says they're unsure what might have accounted for the recent increase.


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