NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — It’s a disease that could be hiding in your body for decades without you even knowing about it.
According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 186 people in North Carolina were diagnosed with Acute Hepatitis C in 2017.
Could those numbers have something to do with the recent opioid crisis?
One expert says that from 2015 to 2016, the number of new cases of Hepatitis C in New Hanover County doubled from the year before.
“You could be infectious, and you could be spreading it through no knowledge of your own,” the New Hanover County Health Department’s Carla Turner said.
Turner says the opioid crisis could also be playing a role in the spread of the disease.
“What we see mainly, I think we’re seeing is injectable drug use and needles being shared,” she said. “43% of those with Acute Hep C reported injectable drug use.”
Turner says the state has launched the Viral Hepatitis Initiative. One branch is right here in New Hanover County.
“She is to serve as a coordinator between people who test positive and care providers,” she said. “We need to link people to care. Because okay, you get tested, you come back and I tell you your lab results and you’re positive. What now?”
Turner says the goal is to get people the medication they need and to end the spread of the potentially deadly disease.
Turner says Hepatitis C can also be spread through sharing razors, unprotected sex, even going to an unlicensed tattoo parlor.
She encourages people to be aware and use safe practices.