Ohio’s Rise in Heroin Use, Disease Worries Health Officials

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – The rise of heroin usage and subsequent surge in hepatitis C infections in central Ohio has state health officials discussing plans to combat the issue, including a needle exchange program.

The number of hepatitis C cases statewide grew from 10,020 in 2013 to 15,887 in 2014. Franklin County is on pace to record more than 1,400 cases this year alone.

Hepatitis C is a treatable but possibly deadly blood-borne viral disease that is often spread through needles shared by intravenous drug users.

The current law requires Ohio communities to declare an emergency before offering clean needles to residents.

Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Teresa Long says officials are considering a comprehensive program to address heroin use and disease, but no formal plans have been made.