Hepatitis C infections triple, linked to opioid epidemic - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Hepatitis C infections triple, linked to opioid epidemic

(Source: WAFF) (Source: WAFF)

As the opioid crisis continues around the nation and throughout the Tennessee Valley, there are new, startling statistics about the spread of hepatitis C. And a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study backs up what the Madison County coroner is seeing.

"In Madison County, just our county alone, we are seeing a death from a drug overdose once every six days," said Madison County Deputy Coroner Tyler Berryhill.

2016 saw more than 65 drug overdose fatalities, according to the coroner, and heroin was responsible for more than half of those. But those aren’t the only
statistics experts are watching soar.

"For every drug overdose we have, I would say one in four or five have some kind of hepatitis variant,” Berryhill said.

A report released from the CDC Thursday shows hepatitis c infections have tripled in the last five years. The report notes some of that is thanks to the nation's opioid epidemic.

"That's one of the things we are seeing more commonly in drug use or our drug related deaths. Many of these people also have hepatitis c or the variants of hepatitis," Berryhill said.

WAFF 48 News reached out to the executive director of the Pathfinder: a halfway house in Huntsville. Russell Glass is a recovering addict who's been diagnosed with hepatitis C before. He openly shared his story in hopes of educating the public.

"The hepatitis C epidemic has been on the rise. With the heroin epidemic, more people have turned to injecting drugs. It only stands to reason more folks are going to get infected with hepatitis C," Glass said.

Glass said he sees recovering addicts with hepatitis C in his halfway house every single day.

"I mean probably a third of our clientele know they have hepatitis C. Probably a third more haven't been diagnosed," he said.

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