An analysis of state surveillance data finds that hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is increasing among adolescents and young adults across Massachusetts, likely due to increases in injection drug use in this population. Although overall declines in HCV infection have occurred both nationwide and in Massachusetts since the early 1990s, an increase among persons aged 15 to 24 years old was observed in the state from 2002 to 2009. Public health officials from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in collaboration with US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), conducted an in-depth investigation to get a clearer picture of what was happening in this population. Researchers found increases in rates of newly reported HCV infection among youth across the state (in urban, suburban, and rural communities), occurring primarily among white, non-Hispanic persons of both genders. Injection drug use was the most common risk factor for HCV transmission. This is consistent with other data suggesting drug use in this population has increased in the state, as well as in other parts of the country. The findings underscore the need for enhanced surveillance of HCV infection and intensified prevention efforts targeting adolescents and young adults, particularly those who engage in injection drug use. CDC is currently working with state and local health departments to determine whether similar trends are occurring in other areas of the country.
(Source: CDC, May 5, 2011)