KULR 8 News (Billings, MT) (11.07.2013)
KULR8 News recently reported on a hepatitis C outbreak in northern Wyoming. Hepatitis C, a serious blood-borne liver disease, is on the rise in Powell and Cody, Wyo. According to Ashley Grajczyk, a representative with the Wyoming Health Department, hepatitis C incidence in Park County tripled from 2011 to 2012, which was double the rate in the state.
Individuals under 30 years old make up most of the recent diagnoses. Officials believe this is due mostly to injection drug use. "We're talking about hepatitis C here, but in reality it is at-risk kids 15 to 30 who are doing all kinds of things maybe we don't want to acknowledge, or we know about, or don't know what to do about," said Bill Crampton, from Park County Public Health.
According to health officials, a large number of people contracting hepatitis C do not have insurance. Officials have requested that members of the Park County health coalition assist these individuals in locating a doctor, hospital, or clinic that would provide free testing and treatment.
Advocates are working to find a solution such as needle exchange programs, which are currently illegal in Wyoming. "I'd say we're seeing more drug use. Certainly. Do we believe more people are injecting legal controlled substances, i.e. pills they obtain from physicians more? Yes, we believe that is happening," said Bryan Skoric, an attorney who has long campaigned against prescription drug abuse but does not support clean needle exchanges. Skoric believes the state is not doing enough to combat prescription drug abuse and wants lawmakers to urge doctors to check patient records to identify those patients going from one doctor to another to collect multiple prescriptions.