Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune (11.18.12)
Aids Weekly Plus
The increase in the number of persons infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in central Wisconsin is attributed to the growing popularity of the drug heroin. In the year 2000, when the state began tracking HCV infections, there were 24 cases of HCV infection in Langlade, Oneida, and Lincoln counties. At present, there are 50 confirmed cases in two counties—Marathon and Portage. A 2011 study by CDC and the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, with assistance from local county health departments, indicated that the primary cause of hepatitis C infection was sharing needles to inject heroin.
Jim Cramm, a Marshfield police department detective who investigates drug crime in Wisconsin, stated that heroin has become more common, as it is cheaper than prescription opioid drugs. Cramm also said that after drugs in the opioid oxycodone family were reformulated in 2010 to prevent abuse, users turned to heroin, which has similar effects. He explained how it is brought through Chicago into Wisconsin’s smaller communities.
Melanie Baehr, Portage County’s Health Department nursing supervisor, stated that the problem of HCV is further complicated by the fact that that approximately 75 percent of persons with HCV infection are unaware of it, as there usually are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. She suggests that preventing transmission of hepatitis C involves counseling those who are infected about risks and prevention methods.