Following the state’s first public health emergency declared in late March due to the HIV outbreak in Scott County, which had affected 170 people to date, State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H., Tuesday declared a public health emergency for Madison County, allowing the county health department to establish a syringe exchange program for the purposes of reducing the spread of Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C replication Image/ GrahamColm
Hepatitis C replication
Image/ GrahamColm

“Madison County officials led a discussion with their community, and they submitted a detailed analysis of their Hepatitis C epidemic and their plan to combat it,” said Dr. Adams. “I am confident that a syringe exchange program will be operated as part of a comprehensive public health response in Madison County. The State will be available to offer technical assistance.”

Earlier this year, Senate Enrolled Act 461, authored by Senator Patricia Miller, sponsored by Representative Ed Clere, and signed into law by Governor Mike Pence, made syringe exchange programs legal in Indiana for the first time, under certain circumstances. The law lays out a set of procedural and substantive requirements that local communities must meet in order for an emergency declaration to be considered by the state health commissioner.

Hepatitis C is a liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected.

Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.” Acute Hepatitis C virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For most people, acute infectionleads to chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease than can result in long-term health problems, or even death.