Post-Standard (Syracuse) (02.15.12) - Thursday, February 16,
Nine of the 10 newly diagnosed hepatitis C cases in Cortland
County this year are people younger than 35, an unusually high
number that is getting the attention of area health officials.
Many of the cases are linked to drug injection.
Blood-borne hepatitis C can cause liver cancer and cirrhosis,
and it is usually seen in baby boomers, said Catherine
Feuerherm, Cortland's public health director. The county began
seeing a spike in cases among younger people last summer: Of
the 21 new cases logged last year, 15 were people 35 and
under. That compares to just two younger people among 14 new
hepatitis C cases in 2010.
Health officials suspect they may be seeing just the tip of
the iceberg. "We're trying to figure out how big it is," said
Provided there is community support, the county may ask the
Southern Tier AIDS Program to provide needle exchange for IV
drug users in the city of Cortland "at least on a short-term
basis to stop the spread of hepatitis C," said Feuerherm. STAP
currently provides syringe-exchange services in Johnson City
Chronic hepatitis C can remain symptomless for 20 or more
years. There is no vaccine to prevent infection, but effective
treatments are available. The county is urging anyone in
Cortland who thinks they may be at risk to get tested for
hepatitis C at the Health Department. Telephone 607-753-5027
to make an appointment.