July 2, 2012
According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention's 2011 report on infectious diseases, the state has seen an increase in illnesses associated with drug use and unprotected sex, including hepatitis C virus (HCV) and gonorrhea.
In 2011, Maine recorded 12 cases of acute, short-term HCV infection, compared to two cases in 2010, according to the report. In most people, acute cases of the disease lead to chronic illness. In Maine, newly reported cases of chronic HCV infection rose from 1,142 in 2010 to 1,184 in 2011. That count, which includes people who have ever had the infection, exceeded reported cases of Lyme disease last year.
Although rates of HCV are highest among baby boomers, Maine also is seeing the disease among younger people -- possibly indicating an emerging trend of IV drug use, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Stephen Sears. "We're looking at it very carefully," he said.
More cases of gonorrhea were reported,especially in Androscoggin and Cumberland counties, ith the state recording 272 cases last year, compared to 162 cases in 2010. The highest incidence was among people ages 15 to 24.
Chlamydia remained the most commonly reported infectious disease in Maine in 2011, with 3,094 cases. Widespread screening for the STD, which often does not cause symptoms, ut can lead to infertility, means it shows up on health officials' radar more than some other diseases, Sears said.
In good news, Maine had the lowest rate of tuberculosis in the country for the second year in a row.