Hepatitis C infections spiking from opioid epidemic

KING 5's Natalie Swaby reports.

It's been a steady and concerning climb with the opioid epidemic leading to more cases of Hepatitis C, especially in young people, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

Before 2013, the health department reports it would see up to five cases a year. Now the numbers have increased to five cases a month.

Kim Desmarais is Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department's viral hepatitis coordinator.

"It's often called a silent killer, a silent disease, because the damage is being done and someone may not be aware of it," said Desmarais, who adds that a majority of people don't have symptoms.

Hepatitis C can be spread by sharing needles or anything that can transmit blood. It is a potentially deadly infection that can cause liver cancer or cirrhosis, according to the health department.

"The treatments now, the medications are so much better than they used to be, so there is a cure, and it's a viable cure," said Desmarais.

In Tacoma, Mayor Marilyn Strickland addressed the opioid epidemic Tuesday night during the Tacoma City Council meeting. She said she is considering legal action against opioid manufacturers. 

VIDEO: Tacoma-Pierce County Public Health on Hepatitis C spike


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