May 17, 2012
The Delaware County Health Department is seeing an increase in hepatitis C virus cases. Last year through May 14, DCHD logged 42 HCV cases, compared with 68 cases so far this year through May 14. DCHD has investigated 44 cases just since the end of February.
"I'm really surprised at what we're seeing," said Nancy Wagner, a DCHD nurse. "This is a problem on so many levels, but especially because so many people are asymptomatic. They could be spreading the disease and not even realize it. And people could have this virus and not even know it. That's why we're educating people on getting tested."
A majority of county residents diagnosed are baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, Wagner said. This has included, anecdotally, "older, educated" residents who inject heroin or share sexual partners, as well those who used heroin "on rare occasions" when they were younger, she said.
"This virus can be in your body for 20, 30 years and you wouldn't know," Wagner said. "That's why it's so important to get tested for it. Its impact on the liver means behaviors like alcohol intake and medication dosages need to change or the liver will get worse."
DCHD staff members are continuing to discuss ways to educate people about HCV.