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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
NEW YORK: Hepatitis Surges in Cortland County: Health Officials There See 30 Cases, Many Affecting Intravenous Drug Users
James T. Mulder
January 31, 2012
Post-Standard (Syracuse) (01.28.12) - Tuesday, January 31,

The Cortland County Health Department is receiving assistance from state officials in an investigation of a recent hepatitis C spike there.

Catherine Feuerherm, Cortland's public health director, said the county has logged 30 hepatitis C cases in the past five months. Neighboring counties like Onondaga and Tompkins are not seeing similar increases, she said.

Those infected are mainly people under 35 who inject drugs - primarily prescription pain pills that are crushed and then boiled down. Many of those with the blood-borne virus reported sharing needles, cotton, water, and other shooting paraphernalia.

Investigators have found some of the infected individuals did not believe they were at risk by sharing needles and other injection equipment with only their partners or close friends, not realizing these individuals might already have the virus. People with chronic hepatitis C may not show symptoms for 20 years or more. People with acute hepatitis C show symptoms. Six of the Cortland cases are acute.

The drugs being injected include Opana and Suboxone, which are sold and shared, said Feuerherm. "[They have] been found to be a quick way to make money. What we're seeing is an explosion within the circle of use," she said, adding that the outbreak is not happening among Cortland's college population.