Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Lowering Hepatitis C in Tippecanoe County

West Lafayette – Tippecanoe County is considering a syringe exchange program as part of its plan to contain a significant increase in hepatitis C infections.

Health officials said the increase is tied to injection drug use.

County Health Officer Jeremy Adler said the number of new hepatitis C cases attributable to injectable drug use in Tippecanoe County jumped during the past 18 months.

He said 61 percent of new hepatitis C cases last year occurred in people who had injected drugs, up from 50 percent in 2014, and 37 percent in 2013.

The health department is developing a plan to provide counseling and medical care to slow the spread of the blood-borne virus that damages the liver.

To obtain authorization for a syringe exchange, Adler must declare an epidemic of hepatitis C primarily transmitted through intravenous drug use.

Commissioner Tracy Brown, the county’s former sheriff, expects some law enforcement members may object to providing a device to be used for illegal activity.

“There will be folks on both sides of that debate. But again, that debate won’t make the problem go away,” Brown said.

Brown said the county is observing the programs already operating in Scott, Monroe, Madison and Fayette counties.

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