Billings Gazette (11.25.2013)
The Billings Gazette recently reported that Wyoming health officials attributed rising hepatitis C diagnoses among Park County residents ages 20–34 to needle sharing among intravenous drug users. Park County reported 56 new hepatitis C infections in 2012, which is double the number of reported diagnoses in 2011. Ashley Grajczyk, viral hepatitis prevention coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Health (DOH), stated that 40 percent of Park County’s 2012 diagnoses originated in the Powell area and the remainder occurred around Cody. Although some new hepatitis C diagnoses could have resulted from people who came to Park County for substance abuse treatment, Grajczyk stated the county’s rate has been increasing since 2008.
Park County Public Health Nurse Manager Bill Crampton and Grajczyk recently addressed hepatitis C prevention and treatment at a Park County Health Coalition meeting in Powell. Crampton acknowledged that public health officials did not know how to address prevention issues effectively among at-risk individuals ages 15–30. DOH led a May awareness campaign that hung posters around the county to alert people to hepatitis C risks posed by injection drug use. Crampton noted that hepatitis C-infected people were unlikely to show symptoms in the early stages, but could sustain liver damage or cancer in the long term, and could die from the virus. According to Grajczyk, many people lacked adequate insurance to cover expensive hepatitis C treatments that could allow them to manage their infections and live productive lives.