ATHENS-Yet another study has produced alarming results for several Appalachian counties, including Scioto.
In an effort to further measure the opioid epidemic’s impact in Ohio, the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health (The Alliance) studied hepatitis C rates within the state and discovered consistently high rates in the southern Appalachia region over a five-year period.
Based on the study, researchers concluded that the finding support the notion that Appalachian Ohio has been the hardest hit area of the state’s opioid Epidemic. “Hepatitis C is growing in incidence in southeast Ohio and it is directly linked to injectable drug use and injectable drug use is directly linked to opioid misuse,” said Dr. Rifat Haider, assistant professor in CHSP’s Department of Social and Public Health.
Research conducted by Haider showed national trends in injectable heroin use increased from 2015 to 2017. This increase created a rising trend in hepatitis incidences as well. C is a blood-borne virus that infects the liver and is spread most commonly by sharing needles. Although curable, most who are infected suffer long-term health problems if left untreated and there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
The Alliance’s study focused on statistics from the Hepatitis Surveillance Program — a service of the Ohio Department of Health — from 2014 through 2018. Over those five years, 84,637 cases of hepatitis C were recorded in Ohio. After 12,012 cases were reported in 2014, and an increase to 15,581 cases in 2015, the number of hepatitis C incidents peaked in 2016 at 20,866 before dropping to 19,432 in 2017 and further decreased to 16,746 in 2018.
“Significant attention has been drawn to the severity of opioid overdose deaths within Ohio’s Appalachian counties and overdose deaths are an important measure of the impact of the opioid epidemic in our state. However, it is important to note that overdose death rates can be influenced by a wide range of factors,” Hall said. “Hepatitis C is often linked to intravenous drug use as one of the major sources of infection is the practice of sharing used (and potentially infected) needles. These findings illustrate the reported incidents of hepatitis C and suggests the prevalence of opioid misuse in various areas of the state.”
According to the study, five southern Appalachia counties exhibited the highest five-year average hepatitis C rates per 100,000 population in the state, including:
Pike — 522
Scioto — 430
Gallia — 386
Lawrence — 370
Meigs — 314
These results place Scioto County as the second highest ranked county for Hepatitis C rates within the state of Ohio.