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Hepatitis B on the rise in Moore County

Posted June 4, 2015

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— Young adults sharing drug needles has led to a significant increase in the number of cases of acute hepatitis B in Moore County, health officials said Wednesday.

There have been five confirmed cases in the first five months of 2015, compared with two cases for all of last year, according to the Moore County Health Department. Of the five cases this year, two were co-infected with hepatitis C.

Hepatitis B is a viral illness transmitted through blood, semen or other bodily fluids. It can cause yellowing of the skin and eyes, fatigue and fever. If the infection persists, it cause lead to liver failure and death.

Moore County health officials said the current cases are primarily among young adults injecting prescription drugs, particularly Opana or other opiate medications. Those infected likely were sharing needles or dipping needles into a spoon containing the liquid to be injected.

“The Moore County Health Department investigates each reported case of hepatitis B in an attempt to identify close contacts, whether they are through needle-sharing, sexual intercourse or household contacts”, said Kim Duffy, communicable disease nurse for the Moore County Health Department. “Each case and their contacts are offered confidential testing, counseling and education about this highly contagious virus and what they can do to stop the further spread of the disease.”

There has not been a similar significant increase in hepatitis B cases statewide. According to the State Department of Health and Human Services, there were 100 cases across the state in 2014, and 92 cases in both 2012 and 2013.

In 2010, there were 123 cases statewide.

In North Carolina, a hepatitis B vaccination at birth has been required since 1994.


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