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Hepatitis C Seen as Health Threat on Long Island
  CDC HIV/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Newsday Jan 8, 2005
Delthia Ricks On Friday in Manhattan, a group of doctors, researchers, community activists, and patients testified before members of two New York Assembly committees about the recent rise in hepatitis C infections on Long Island. "This is just the start of a tidal wave that is going to hit in 2015 to 2020," Dr. Alain Litwin, an infectious-disease specialist from the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in the Bronx, told the committee members.
While many people were infected with hepatitis C before the virus was screened in the blood supply, experts believe the recent spate of infections stems from crystal methamphetamine use. Across the state, new hepatitis C infections have been reported due to the sharing of needles and other drug paraphernalia. Crystal meth has attracted a growing number of urban and suburban users - and its link to hepatitis C, experts say, is undeniable.
Jayne Green of the Nassau County Department of Drug and Alcohol Addiction told legislators that hepatitis C is becoming increasingly problematic on Long Island. "Hepatitis C has a potential to be a greater threat than HIV in the 1980s and 1990s," she said. Though there are no firm hepatitis C numbers for the area, Green said her agency is seeing more cases. Of the 326 people her agency recently counseled about the virus, 56 percent tested positive. And a growing percentage of those diagnosed with hepatitis C are coinfected with HIV.
Within a decade, CDC estimates there will be a 279 percent nationwide increase in the incidence of liver damage due to hepatitis C; a 528 percent increase in the need for liver transplants; and a 223 percent increase in the liver-related death rate.
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