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Hepatitis cases continue to rise in Huron County

Zoe Greszler • Jul 11, 2018 at 4:00 AM

The nation as a whole has seen an increase in hepatitis C cases and recent data from the health department shows that Huron County is no exception. 

In the first six months of this year alone, Huron County Public Health (HCPH) had 89 different hepatitis cases reported, 59 of which were Type C. That put it on trend to surpass the past three years’ total number of Type C cases — 113 in 2017; 99 in 2016; and 108 in 2015.  

At this time last year the county had only seen 69 hepatitis cases, which had previously been on a slight trending incline.

With the exception of April, Huron County has seen higher monthly numbers of hepatitis cases year-over-year when compared with 2017. According to HCPH reports, the monthly numbers already have doubled the four-year averages three times this year (January, May and June), when about 20 cases were reported each month. 

Of all the issues reported to HCPH, hepatitis cases take up 38 percent of those reports, second only to sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) at 48 percent.

The increase in the disease though is nothing new to the department. Epidemiologist Sydney Cmar has been watching the trends since at least last year. And while the numbers continue to rise, Cmar said she’s “not overly concerned.”

“The comparative average of the last four years shows we’ve been higher for the first six months of this year,” Cmar said.

These numbers reflect all cases that are reported as suspected, probable or confirmed, she added, which is different from state reports which only include cases that have been confirmed. 

The trend isn’t a shocking one when considering the area’s and state’s drug use, however, Cmar noted that the exact cause still is unknown.

“There are many potential reasons as to why we are seeing an increase in hepatitis cases, however, the exact cause is unknown. The United States has been seeing an increase in acute hepatitis C virus (HCV) since 2010,” Cmar said.

“The risk factors for hepatitis C include current or former intravenous drug users, recipients of clotting factor concentrates made before 1987, recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants prior to July 1992, chronic hemodialysis patients, people with known exposures to HCV, people with HIV, and children born to HCV-positive mothers.”

Another area Cmar had been keeping an eye on was on STD trends, particularly with gonorrhea cases.

“Last year I was concerned number of gonorrhea cases we were seeing,” she said. “But I’m feeling a little better about that. I’m not too concerned with that now seeing these numbers. Unless we get a really bad month, which could always happen, I think we’re on a similar trend (to where we were before).”

2017 saw a sharp increase in the number of gonorrhea cases, with 42 cases reported compared to 22 the year before. So far, 2018 has had just 12 cases reported, meaning it will be closer to the previous trend in the number of reported cases.

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