As a result of increased HIV testing in southeastern Indiana due to the large outbreak of the viral disease linked to injectable drug use, health officials in Jackson County say there is a significant increase in hepatitis C being reported in the county.

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

In fact, more than 50 cases of the disease are currently being investigated, approximately 10 times the number of cases reported in a month.

The Seymour Tribune reports: The increase is being attributed to the ongoing HIV outbreak in southeast Indiana, centered in nearby Scott County. That health emergency has caused many people to seek free HIV testing which has led to more Hepatitis C being diagnosed too, said Lin Montgomery, public health coordinator with the Jackson County Health Department.

As of March 27, 2015, there have been a total of 81 HIV positive tests, which includes 74 confirmed and 7 preliminary cases related to the outbreak in southeastern Indiana.

On Thursday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence declared a public health disaster emergency for Scott County.

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. Today, most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.

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.