Use of intravenous drugs significantly increases the risk of contracting hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Northern Kentucky has seen dramatic increases in hepatitis B and C case rates, with many cases being associated with IV drug use.
Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease. It can be result in a mild illness that lasts several weeks (acute hepatitis B) or a serious, lifelong illness (chronic hepatitis B). It is preventable through a vaccine.
In 2015, there were 22 cases of acute hepatitis B in Northern Kentucky, a rate of 5.37 per 100,000 population. In comparison, the state case rate is 3.7 per 100,000 and the national rate is 1.1 per 100,000 (state and national rates are based on preliminary numbers). Local cases of hepatitis B doubled from 2006 to 2013, and 50% of those with hepatitis B who were contacted by the Health Department admitted to IV drug use as a risk factor for the infection.
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious (acute hepatitis C) to a lifelong illness that attacks the liver (chronic hepatitis C). It is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. The Health Department can test for hepatitis C at its county health centers.
Cases of hepatitis C continue to rise in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties. In 2017, a total of 1,404 people were diagnosed with either acute or non-acute hepatitis C, according to preliminary case reports. Map of hepatitis rates from 2010-2017 by ZIP code. This is an increase of 8.4 percent from 2016, when a total of 1,295 cases were reported. In 2015 (the most recent year for which state and federal data is available), Northern Kentucky had one of the highest rates of acute hepatitis C infection in the country, with a case rate of 9.5 per 100,000 population, compared to 2.7 per 100,000 in Kentucky and 0.8 per 100,000 nationwide.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS if not treated. The Health Department provides regular testing for HIV.
Northern Kentucky has the third highest rate of diagnosed HIV cases in Kentucky with 815, accounting for 8 percent of all HIV diagnoses in Kentucky. In 2015 (the most recent year for which data is available), 33 individuals in Northern Kentucky were diagnosed with HIV, a case rate of 7.3 per 100,000. Through targeted testing between July 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015, the Health Department administered 185 HIV tests. Of those tested, 14 (7.5 percent) reported sharing needles/works while using drugs as a risk factor for infection.
HIV case data from 2017 shows an increase in cases among individuals who inject drugs.